Top NBA Draft Prospects in Non-BCS Conferences, Part Five (#26-30)

Top NBA Draft Prospects in Non-BCS Conferences, Part Five (#26-30)
Nov 11, 2010, 10:40 pm
Concluding our coverage of the top returning NBA prospects in Non-BCS conferences, we profile UTEP's Randy Culpepper, Damian Lilliard of Weber State, Keion Bell of Pepperdine, New Mexico State's Troy Gillenwater, and Adnan Hodzic of Lipscomb.

Freshmen have been excluded from these previews, as we'd like to wait and see what they have to offer on the NCAA circuit before we attempt to draw any long-term conclusions.

-Top 20 NBA Prospects in the Big Ten
-Top 15 NBA Prospects in the Big 12
-Top 10 NBA Prospects in the Pac-10
-Top 15 NBA Prospects in the SEC
-Top 25 NBA Prospects in the Big East
-Top 25 NBA Prospects in the ACC

Top NBA Draft Prospects in Non-BCS Conferences Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four

#1 Elias Harris
#2 Kenneth Faried
#3 Kawhi Leonard
#4 Wesley Witherspoon
#5 Aaric Murray
#6 Keith Benson
#7 Greg Smith
#8 Damian Saunders
#9 Jimmer Fredette
#10 Lavoy Allen
#11 Shelvin Mack
#12 Arsalan Kazemi
#13 Chris Wright
#14 Juan Fernandez
#15 Robert Sacre
#16 C.J. McCollum
#17 Will Coleman
#18 George Odufuwa
#19 Andrew Nicholson
#20 Gary Flowers
#21 Zeke Marshall
#22 Mark Payne
#23 Matt Howard
#24 Norris Cole
#25 Denzel Bowles

#26 Randy Culpepper, 6-0, Senior, Shooting Guard, UTEP
17.9 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.8 turnovers, 1.8 steals, 47% FG, 74% FT, 37% 3P

Walker Beeken

The 2009-2010 Conference USA Player of the Year, Randy Culpepper, enters his senior season at UTEP as one of the most explosive scorers in the college game. With the losses of big men Derrick Caracter, now in the NBA, and Arnett Moultrie, who transferred to Mississippi State, Culpepper will likely continue to carry much of the offensive load this season for the Miners and new head coach Tim Floyd.

Standing at only 6'0” tall and weighing only about 165 pounds, Culpepper played primarily off the ball last season in the role as a scorer, while 6'6” Julyan Stone ran the team from the point guard position. And while Culpepper is an excellent athlete with great explosiveness and elevation, his small stature and the fact that he doesn't appear be a point guard at all will certainly hurt him in the eyes of NBA scouts as they try to evaluate how his game might translate to the NBA level. He'll need to show better passing instincts and more of an attacking game off the dribble this season to prove that he isn't just a gunner.

Culpepper is an extremely effective scorer at the college level, as he ranked eleventh of all players in our database last season, scoring 1.25 points per possession. He has the ability to put points on the board in bunches, as evidenced by his single game highs from last season of 45 and 39 points, where he connected on nine 3-pointers in each game.

While Culpepper's per game scoring numbers didn't change much from his sophomore to junior season, he did make strides in becoming more efficient. He raised his field goal percentage to a solid 47% last season, up from the 41% he shot as a sophomore. This was mainly due to his improvement in finishing at the rim, where he does a very good job of using his elevation and body control to find ways to score. This led to an improved 59% on 2-point attempts last season, which is outstanding for a player his size. This success might be tough for him to translate to the NBA level, however, where he'd face much longer, more athletic defenders in the paint.

Shot selection is still a big issue with Culpepper, despite his increased shooting percentages. He has deep range and confidence as shooter, but he still forces up shots that he has no business taking. The fact that he shot 46% on unguarded catch-and-shoot jump shots last season shows that he has the ability as a shooter, but he shot only 31% overall on jump shots, because so he took so many bad ones. If he can focus on taking better shots and attacking the basket more instead of settling for contested jumpers, he could become an extremely efficient scorer.

As a defender, Culpepper plays with good energy and has the lateral quickness and toughness to defend on the perimeter. He also averaged 1.8 steals per game last season thanks to his quick hands and ability to play the passing lines. The biggest obstacle for him is his size, as he's not a point guard offensively, and he's not big enough to cover 2 guards on the defensive end.

It would be easy to dismiss Culpepper as a prospect due to his lack of size and position for the NBA, but we've seen there is a place for super explosive, undersized combo guards if they're able get into the lane off the dribble regularly and make plays. Culpepper has some potential to fill that small niche, but his mediocre ball-handling and passing skills, and poor shot selection will need to improve for him to have any chance at all to succeed at that level.

#27 Damian Lillard, 6-2, Point Guard, Weber State, Junior
19.9 ‘Points, 4.0 Rebounds, 3.6 Assists, 2.4 Turnovers, 1.1, Steals, 43.1% FG, 39.3% 3FG, 85.3% FT

Kyle Nelson

Point guard Damian Lillard did little to stand out as a freshman at Weber State, but he emerged as one of the nation's top scoring guards as a sophomore. The Big Sky Conference MVP also performed well in front of NBA scouts at the 2010 adidas Nations Camp. His solid performance against elite collegiate players boosted his draft stock and drastically increased expectations for his junior season.

At 6'2 with a decent 180-pound frame, Lillard has average size for the point guard position at the next level. Athletically, however, he is a mixed bag. While he does have a better than average first step and is quick in the open floor, he is not particularly explosive and lacks ideal strength to compensate.

Lillard averaged an impressive 19.9 points per game as a sophomore on just 13.8 attempts. He is a very good shooter at the collegiate level and he able to shoot from a standstill, as well as off of the dribble. Though he makes 39.3% of his perimeter attempts, his unorthodox shooting mechanics suggest that he might struggle to get his shot off at the next level. He has a very low point of release, seemingly pushing the ball from his chest and does not get much elevation on his shot, which make his shot easy to block.

Spot-up opportunities represented less than 20% of his offensive possessions, however, and Lillard proved himself to be a good shot creator as a sophomore. He is a good ball handler and is a capable scorer off of the pick-and-roll, where he can split the defense or pull up for a jump shot. He also does a very good job of moving without the ball, utilizing screens and seeing the floor well. His basketball IQ seems to be very high and he rarely played outside of his strengths, which could help him overcome his athletic deficiencies.

He struggles as a finisher, however, which largely explains why he shoots a mediocre 47% from inside of the arc. He can get to the basket fairly easily due to his handle and first step aid, but his lack of explosiveness and strength limit his potential as a slasher. He does not shy away from contact, however, and he shoots 7.0 free throws per 40 minutes pace adjusted and connects on 85.3% of his attempts.

Lillard's ability as a point guard is somewhat difficult to evaluate, as Weber State's offense requires him to put points on the scoreboard. He did improve his assist-to-turnover ratio as a sophomore to a respectable 1.51 while averaging 4.1 assists against 2.7 turnovers per 40 minutes pace adjusted. While he occasionally over-dribbles, he is good at finding his teammates on the perimeter in drive-and-kick situations. As mentioned earlier, he runs the pick-and-roll fairly well and is a good passer when he is not looking for his own offense. He also is a solid floor manager, dictating the tempo while knowing his teammates strengths and weaknesses.

He is likely going to have to learn how to play a different role to function as an NBA player, however, as he will not have the opportunity to dominate a quarter of his team's offensive possessions. He will likely have to transition into a pure point guard, distributing the basketball and making open shots.

Lillard shows solid lateral quickness on the defensive end and can stay in front of his man. He struggles to close out on perimeter shooters, however, and sometimes gets caught running under screens, which leads to open shots. Lillard is just an average defender at the collegiate level, largely because of his inconsistent focus, which he must improve upon against weaker competition if he wants to stick in the NBA.

Weber State's lackluster 2010-2011 schedule leaves very few opportunities for scouts to watch Lillard against legitimate competition. This unfortunately places abnormally high expectations on an early-season contest against Jimmer Fredette and BYU. As was the case with Eric Maynor in 2009, Lillard will have to prove to scouts that he can dominate in a low-major conference and compete against legitimate competition on both sides of the ball in order to solidify his chances of getting drafted. It is safe to say, however, that he is a legitimate prospect at this point and well worth watching as the season unfolds.

#28 Keion Bell, 6-3, Shooting Guard, Junior, Pepperdine
18.5 Points, 5.1 Rebounds, 3.2 Assists, 3.9 Turnovers, 43% FG, 75% FT, 36% 3P

Jonathan Givony

After an impressive freshman season at Pepperdine, Keion Bell established himself as one of the best scorers on the West Coast as a sophomore, averaging a cool 23.4 points per-40 minutes pace adjusted, good for 24th in the NCAA. Despite his scoring prowess, though, Bell still has plenty of room to improve as a junior, as he also ranked top-5 in turnovers and top-15 in usage and field goal attempts.

From a physical standpoint, Bell has made a name for himself on the national level with his freakish leaping ability, establishing himself as somewhat of a Youtube sensation with his lengthy reel of phenomenal dunks. Besides his athleticism, though, Bell doesn't have great size for an NBA shooting guard prospect at around 6-2 or 6-3, and appears to be on the frail side as well with average length.

Bell's role at the college level is to act as the first, second and third option in Pepperdine's sputtering offense, a team that finished last in the WCC with a 7-24 overall record. While he certainly puts points up on the board, he struggles to do so efficiently, converting just 45% of his 2-point attempts last season, and turning the ball over on 21% of possessions. To his credit, though, he doesn't have a great deal of help alongside him.

Bell is a fairly skilled player with the ball in his hands, being very effective in transition especially thanks to his excellent speed and explosiveness. He gets to free throw line at a very good rate for those same reasons, and knocks down a solid 75% of his attempts once there. Despite his excellent leaping ability, Bell struggles to finish around the basket through contact, which is likely a testament to his lack of strength and frail frame.

In the half-court, Bell can create his own shot effectively and score in a multitude of ways, particularly in the paint with a very nice floater. He tends to overdribble at times, though, running into brick walls and looking fairly predictable, causing him to get careless with ball and make bad decisions. His advanced ball-handling skills and ability to change speeds and keep defenses off-balance is still very much a work in progress at this stage, something that would likely become more evident against better competition than he faces in the WCC. Right now he needs too many dribbles to get his own shot—a luxury he won't be afforded in any league he plays in after college. Additionally, his reliance on attempting long contested pull-up jumpers in the mid-range area really hurts his shooting percentages.

As a shooter, Bell improved his 3-point percentages dramatically from his freshman to sophomore year, going from converting a paltry 25.5% of his attempts to a much more respectable 35.7%, despite sporting a slow release and slightly unorthodox mechanics. Continuing to improve in this area will be key, as it's unlikely that he'll ever see as much freedom with the ball in his hands at the professional level as he does at Pepperdine.

At his size, Bell could be well served trying to work on his playmaking ability in his final two seasons of college eligibility, as he'd likely be more attractive to the NBA as a combo guard rather than as an undersized shooting guard. He averaged a solid amount of assists last season and shows the ability at times to create for others within the flow of offense, but still, he's clearly much more of a scorer than a playmaker in terms of his mentality.

Defensively, Bell has some tools to work with, as he has quick feet putting pressure on the ball and rebounds the ball very well for a guard with his explosive leaping ability. With that said, he lacks size and strength and doesn't help himself at all with the poor effort often he brings to this end of the floor. He shows poor fundamentals, regularly looks lackadaisical in his stance, tends to give up on plays easily, and often looks content just swiping at the ball aimlessly from behind once he gets beat.

Bell just doesn't show much desire or pride in terms of keeping his man in front of him at this stage, which is likely in large part due to the huge role he's forced to shoulder on the offensive end of the ball. With that said, NBA teams will want to know that he can make up for his lack of ideal physical tools and guard his own position at the next level, and he isn't doing himself any favors currently with how he looks on film.

Bell still has two years to round out his skill-set and make himself more attractive to NBA talent evaluators, something he clearly looks capable of doing if he puts the work in. His scoring instincts and athleticism are clearly things that can't be taught, and if he can find a way to improve on his defense, playmaking ability and offensive efficiency, he should get himself plenty of looks.

#29 Troy Gillenwater, 6'7, Power Forward, Junior, New Mexico State
14.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.3 blocks, 1.3 turnovers, 53% FG, 41% 3PT, 71% FT

Joseph Treutlein

After missing the first 21 games of his sophomore season due to academic suspension, Troy Gillenwater finished off strong, averaging a very potent 14.6 points in just 22.8 minutes per game for the Aggies, while scoring at a high efficiency as well. Despite dealing with ankle injuries in the offseason, Gillenwater should be fully healthy to start his junior year, where he'll look to expand his production with a larger role.

On the offensive end, Gillenwater does the majority of his damage operating with his back to the basket, something he's very well suited for in mid-major NCAA, though likely far less than ideal from an NBA perspective. Possessing good base strength and a nice arsenal of hook shots and turnaround jumpers, Gillenwater finishes very well around the basket, showing good touch and instincts in the post. The problem, however, is that from an athletic standpoint he is not particularly impressive, and he struggles to get great separation on his moves, which makes it tougher for him to finish against bigger, more athletic opponents.

Off the ball, Gillenwater does a good job finishing on cuts, pick-and-rolls, and offensive rebounds, but he isn't featured in these situations very often and his lack of great athleticism makes it unlikely for him to develop into a big time threat in these areas. Likewise, despite showing a decent comfort level with his ball-handling, his first step is very weak, making his face-up game very non-threatening.

On the other hand, Gillenwater does excel greatly with his spot-up shooting, possessing range to the college three-point line and very good accuracy on his shot. According to Synergy Sports Technology, Gillenwater scored 1.23 points per possession on his jump shots, which ranks in the 94th percentile of college players. If he can maintain his 40% three-point shooting on a larger number of attempts per game (he averaged just 2.5 as a sophomore), this is one attribute that will be very helpful to him projecting to any higher level of competition.

Defensively, Gillenwater does a good job in the post, where he shows solid fundamentals and moves his feet pretty well, while he also shows good but not great base strength to hold position. He isn't tested much on the perimeter, either in isolation or pick-and-roll situations, but when he is, he doesn't look particularly comfortable. Gillenwater also does a good job contributing on the glass, averaging 11.1 boards per pace adjusted 40 minutes, something he can hopefully maintain with increased minutes this year.

Looking forward, Gillenwater appears to have a steep uphill climb to establish himself as a surefire NBA draft prospect, as his lack of great athleticism or size combined with the question marks about how his post game will translate is a lot of cards stacked against him. Continuing to develop as a three-point threat, maximizing his athleticism, and developing into a more versatile defender should be among his priorities, and he should have plenty of chances to do so this year.

#30 Adnan Hodzic. 6'9, Senior, Center, Lipscomb
22.7 Points, 9.1 Rebounds, 0.8 Assists, 2.7 Turnovers, 60.4% FG, 67.6% FT

Matthew Williams

The Atlantic Sun Player of the Year last season and top returning scorer in the NCAA, Adnan Hodzic may not look like a NBA prospect, but his numbers speak for themselves. Amongst the most prolific scorers and rebounders in the country, the senior epitomizes the “bull in a china shop” tag often used to label gritty, powerful post scorers. Hailing from Sarajevo, Bosnia, Hodzic spent his high high school days playing next to Eric Gordon at perennial power North Central HS in Indianapolis.

Steadily developing his game in each of his three years at Lipscomb, Hodzic was often overshadowed during his time playing on the high school and AAU circuits by the bevy of talent in Indiana. Standing 6'9 with an extremely powerful build and outstanding physical strength, the senior has grown from a rugged rebounder who coasted at times defensively to an elite small-conference post scorer with a terrific motor. While his size, style of play, and lack of outstanding quickness and leaping ability project him as a severely undersized center at the NBA level, Hodzic has held his own against all levels of competition in the NCAA.

The name of the game for Hodzic offensively is brute strength. He establishes deep position in the post essentially whenever he wants to thanks to his tremendously strong lower body and runs the lane lines with purpose when his team pushes the tempo offensively. With nearly two-thirds of his touches coming in back to the basket situations, Hodzic is effective operating over both shoulders though he prefers to turn over his left so he can use his right-handed hook shot. Using his strength to bully his way to the rim with a single dribble or simply sealing his man when the entry pass is thrown, the talented senior shows great touch around the basket and is very decisive, even if more athletic defenders block his shot periodically.

Past his tremendous finishing ability and touch around the rim, Hodzic doesn't show much more on the offensive end. He took a very small sample size of shots away from the immediate vicinity of the rim, and while his free throw percentage isn't abysmal, it is obvious that he could stand to improve his shooting ability to help him take better advantage of the his ability to get to the line at a good rate.

Lacking much in the way of agility, Hodzic lacks some of the tools NBA scouts look for in a power forward, which raises some red flags about his potential. Early season matchups against the likes of Tyler Zeller of North Carolina, Perry Jones of Baylor, and JaMychal Green of Alabama should shed some light on what Hodzic can offer against players with NBA size and athleticism. There's no doubting what Hodzic has proven in the college game, but his transition to the next level may be a hard one. His size and lack of great athleticism could limit him in multiple facets of the game, though he does offer some impressive area rebounding ability.

Defensively, Hodzic is a solid defender in the Atlantic Sun due to his ability to prevent his man from establishing position on the block. He does a good job attempting to force more athletic offensive players into jump shots, but offers no shot-blocking presence down low and gets beat off the dribble by quicker players when he ventures too far away from the rim.

A prime candidate for the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, Hodzic will be an interesting player to follow throughout this season and the draft process. He is not a flashy player by any stretch of the imagination, but he gets the job done. His ability to show that he can still make an impact against NBA caliber athletes will answer questions about his quality of competition and dictate the legitimacy of his draft prospects. Regardless, he's a name to keep an eye on as he'll be amongst the top scorers in the NCAA this season.

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