Top NBA Prospects in the Pac-12
#1: Jaylen Brown Scouting Video
#2: Jakob Poeltl Scouting Video
#3: Ivan Rabb Scouting Video
#4: Tyrone Wallace Scouting Video
#5, Allonzo Trier, 6-5, Freshman, Shooting Guard, Arizona
Without the benefit of extensive high school footage, we prefer to wait and see how Trier performs as a freshman before adding to his comprehensive DraftExpress profile, which already features a scouting report and video interview.
#6, Gary Payton II, 6-3, Senior, Point Guard, Oregon State
An extremely unique prospect, both in terms of style of play and his off-court background, Gary Payton came out of nowhere to emerge as a first-team All-Pac 12 player last season.
The son of NBA hall of famer Gary Payton, who also attended Oregon State, Gary II was recruited by the previous coaching staff led by Craig Robinson, but elected to stay committed to the Beavers when Wayne Tinkle took over. He took a circuitous route to Corvallis, being forced to go the JUCO route when he couldn't get academically eligible for Division I coming out of high school, leading him to Westwind Prep and then eventually Salt Lake Community College.
Payton has a tremendous physical profile for a point guard, standing 6-3, with an extremely long wingspan, a strong frame, big hands, and terrific athletic ability. He ranked #1 among all point guard prospects in rebounds and blocks on a per-40 minute basis, as well as #2 overall in steals. Only a dozen players in the last 15+ years have posted those type of numbers in the college ranks according to our extensive historical database, including the likes of Andre Iguodala, Dwayne Wade, Grant Hill, Clyde Drexler, Bonzi Wells and Ron Harper.
Payton's calling card as a NBA prospect indeed revolves around his defensive prowess. His size and length allows him to defend any of the three backcourt positions at the college level, giving his coach tremendous flexibility in terms of lineups and strategies defending the pick and roll, pressing, and playing man or zone. His instincts in the passing lanes and as a rebounder help get his team countless extra possessions every game.
He contests shots impressively on the perimeter, being able to sag off his man and give himself an extra cushion to not get neat off the dribble, but still get a hand up on jumpers with his tremendous length. He does a great job of staying in front for that reason, even if his fundamentals can still improve on this end of the floor.
He played a huge part in Oregon State's emergence as one of the best defensive teams in college basketball last season, finishing 16th overall in that category according to KenPom, up from 215th the season before, and won Pac-12 defensive player of the year honors for his efforts.
Offensively, Payton II is much more of a mixed bag, looking far rawer than your average 22-year old NBA prospect, which is likely due in part to his unique background. He played both on and off the ball last year, showing average ball-handling skills and a streaky jumper, and alternating between being too passive to making some very questionable decisions in the half-court.
Payton does not have a great feel for the game at this stage, and has a lot of work to do before he can be trusted to run a NBA team, particularly in the half-court. His ball-handling skills are rudimentary, particularly with his weaker right hand, as he does not have a great deal of shake to him and struggles when forced to change speeds or directions, often picking up his dribble unnecessarily. That hampers him from utilizing his athleticism as much as you'd hope, and forces him to be much more of a jump-shooter than his skill-set suggests he should.
Payton's shooting mechanics are not terrible, particularly from the waist up, and he would surprise you at times with his ability to knock down consecutive jumpers at times last season, showing some potential to continue to improve in this area down the road. With that said, he's far from being a consistent threat, and indeed only hit 27 of his 92 attempts from beyond the arc (29%) to go along with 66% of his free throw attempts. He needs to continue to polish his footwork and balance, as he doesn't always look to be in rhythm, and tends to shoot the ball on the way down.
Shot-selection is a major issue as well, as it's not rare to see him bring the ball up the court and then settle for an off-balance pull-up jumper early in the offense without any rhyme or reason seemingly. He'll either have to improve his court vision and playmaking ability significantly or become a far more consistent outside shooter to carve out a significant role at the NBA level, as it's difficult to be both a non-shooter and a combo guard at the same time in today's style of play.
With that said, Payton did show some flashes last year that indicate he could continue to progress with added coaching and experience, at times impressing with some nice passes, or making a strong take to the rim and finishing nicely in the paint. Considering it was just his first season of playing against Division I competition, it will be interesting to see how he progresses as a senior.
Payton's physical profile, defense and intensity will always put him in the mix as a NBA caliber player, but he'll have to continue to polish his skill-set to show he can carve out a role in a team's rotation. He's in a great spot to show how he's progressed this summer, as the leader of a fairly experienced Oregon State team that will be vying for a NCAA Tournament berth, which would be their first in 26 years.
#7, Jabari Bird, 6'6, Junior, Shooting Guard, California
One of the streakier teams occupying what became a crowded middle-tier in last year's Pac-12 race, California finished 18-15 in their first year under Head Coach Cuonzo Martin. Returning most of their contributors from a year ago, including do-it-all point guard Tyrone Wallace, the Golden Bears figure to take a major step forward this season after landing one of the top recruiting classes in the country headlined by small forward Jaylen Brown and big man Ivan Rabb.
Something of a forgotten man on a team that suddenly sports a number of intriguing NBA prospects, Jabari Bird, arguably the most talented and highly anticipated recruit ex-Head Coach Mike Montgomery landed in his stint at Cal (at least since Leon Powe in 2003), returns to Berkley for his junior year facing somewhat unusual circumstances for an upperclassman.
Ranked as one of the top-25 players in the class on 2013, Bird came to Cal with a reputation as a talented offensive player with good scoring instincts. Playing a fairly significant role and coming on strong out of the gates with a big performance at the Maui Invitational as a freshman, Bird wasn't able to make the most of the momentum he built in NBA circles after an ankle injury kept him out of action for a number of games in the middle of the season, even though he once again stood out in Cal's NIT run.
Last season, Bird boosted his scoring average into double figures and again looked good early, but a stress fracture once more kept him out of action for a stretch in the middle of the season. Looking explosive at times in the later part of the year, but also quite inconsistent, Bird showed the ability to score in bunches, but wasn't particularly productive otherwise finishing the year averaging 14.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per-40 minutes pace adjusted.
An aggressive offensive player, who, as we've noted previously, doesn't always pick and choose his spots effectively, Bird does the majority of his damage in spot up and transition situations. A good shooter whose NBA prospects would benefit immensely if he emerged as a great one, Bird has nice mechanics when he's shooting in rhythm, gets good elevation both off the catch and off the dribble, and made 37% of his 3-point attempts a year ago. He looks a bit rigid shooting off the catch at times, which limits his effectiveness, especially from the corners, and settles for highly contested shots at times, particularly inside the arc where he attempted 50 jump shots last year, but made just 38% of those attempts.
A fluid, but not overwhelmingly quick or explosive athlete, Bird shows the ability to get to the basket off the dribble, showing nice body control finishing inside, even if he sometimes tries to make shots from near impossible angles. Asked to run the pick and roll a bit a year ago and given a lot of freedom in transition, Bird is not a great shot creator for himself or others and prefers to settle for jump shots, but shot a tremendous 64% at the rim a year ago in limited attempts thanks to his instincts and knack for finishing around defenders inside.
Standing 6'6 with a 6'7 wingspan, Bird has good size for a shooting guard, but lacks overwhelming length. Though he's not a freak athlete and, like the Golden Bears as a team, created very few turnovers defensively a year ago, Bird has developed into a fairly attentive defender. He's not impervious to being a step slow recovering to the ball after helping down low or getting beat off the dribble, but he appears to have developed more of a sense of urgency on this end of the floor under Martin, even if his impact and upside are limited. His strength remains a concern as he struggles to fight through screens and defend bigger wing scorers.
Finishing as Cal's fourth leading scorer a year ago behind two guards who both return this season, Bird will face stiff competition for touches with Brown and Rabb entering the fold as well. There's no question he's a talent offensively, but he's yet to take the type of big step forward as a player that would establish him as a potential early-entry candidate. His injuries surely haven't helped in that regard, and if he can remain healthy and show progress as a decision-maker and shooter this season, he could make a strong impression on scouts, as they'll be in attendance in Berkley early and often this season. Cal employed a fairly balanced offensive attack in their tour of Australia, and it will be interesting to see how that holds during the regular season.
#8, Tyler Dorsey, 6-4, Freshman, Shooting Guard, Oregon
After watching Dorsey intently at the U19 World Championship this past July, we offered up the following scouting report and interview. We will wait and see how he performs as a freshman before adding to his profile.
#9, Dillon Brooks, 6-7, Sophomore, Small Forward, Oregon
After watching Brooks intently at the U19 World Championship this past July, we offered up the following scouting report and interview. We will wait and see how he performs as a sophomore before adding to his profile.
#10, Dusan Ristic, 7-0, Sophomore, Center, Arizona
Stuck behind more experienced big men in Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski, Dusan Ristic didn't see a great deal of playing time in the front court rotation for the Arizona Wildcats in his debut season. With an added year of strength and experience, Ristic should find more playing time in 2015-16 for the Wildcats, which will give us a better idea of where he stands as a NBA draft prospect.
On our radar since he was 15, the Serbian averaged just 8.8 minutes per game last season, although he did make the most of his time, putting in 15.3 points on 61.6% shooting along with 9.5 rebounds per 40 minutes pace adjusted. It will be interesting to watch him develop in a larger role this season and see how his per minute point production translates with more playing time.
Ristic has a nice foundation of physical tools, measured at 7'0 with a solid frame for his age at 245 pounds. While he has added some strength over the past few seasons, he still has some room to fill out and become stronger if he hopes to compete against NBA level big men. He has a long wingspan to complement his height and his measurements will help overcome his average athleticism by NBA standards. Ristic is a fluid and mobile big man, but is not particularly explosive around the basket on either end of the floor.
In his limited minutes, Ristic wasn't shy on the offensive end, actively calling for the ball on the block and looking confident around the rim. His post game is still a work in progress as his footwork and patience in the post is still developing, with Ristic mainly relying on his height and length to shoot over his defender due to his inability to back down opponents. As he continues to get stronger, he should have an easier time using his strong fundamentals and ability to score with either hand on the block to his advantage. His limited playing time may have made him overeager looking for his own offense at times, as he only generated two assists in 300+ minutes last season.
Ristic moves well around the paint, cutting into open spaces and putting himself in passing lanes to get the ball in areas where he can score thanks to his terrific hands and touch. He is assertive around the rim, going up strong and finishing with either hand, to the tune of 60.5% according to Synergy Sports Technology. He is primarily a below the rim player, so he will need to continue to work on his explosiveness and ability to finish through contact to be an effective option off cuts and pick and rolls as the competition stiffens.
Ristic didn't take many jump shots last season but he also showed he wasn't afraid to let it fly when open and he could emerge as a stretch option for the Wildcats in the upcoming season. He doesn't get much lift on his shot but his height allows him to get his shot off against defenders. On one hand, he made four of five three point attempts last season, but he's also converted just 57% of his free throws throughout his career (in the competitions we have data for) thus far. Ristic should have a bigger offensive role this season and whether he can step out to the perimeter will be a key to how he is viewed as a NBA prospect, as well as his ability to see playing time alongside Kaleb Tarczewski.
Defensively, Ristic looks capable guarding the post, having the strength to make it difficult to back him down and the length to challenge shots close to the basket. When asked to step away from the basket, he is taken out of his comfort zone and he doesn't want to step out to his man to pressure the ball or move his feet against dribble penetration, making him an easy target to exploit with the right matchup. This lack of versatility may hurt his ability to stay on the floor so he will need to make a more concerted effort on the perimeter to make it difficult for his opponent, even if his physical tools prevent him from being a defensive stopper.
Despite his long reach, he isn't a great shot-blocker, averaging just 1.1 per 40 minutes pace adjusted. He can force the opposition into tough shots but he doesn't quite have his timing down yet to block shots on his primary man or the agility to help block shots as a secondary defender.
Ristic appears to be a capable rebounder on both ends of the floor, but was inconsistent in this area as a freshman, and Arizona will need him to contribute in this area quickly after their offseason losses. He averaged 2.7 offensive rebounds and 6.8 defensive rebounds per 40 minutes pace adjusted in his freshman season, which are both average rates for a player his size. On the offensive boards, he runs hard right to the front of the rim and is able to grab nearly everything that lands within his grasp, as he has good hands to secure the loose ball. He won't be chasing down balls outside his immediate area but he will be able to corral any that drop around him. NBA scouts will want to see Ristic display more of a degree of nastiness in this area, as his intensity level tends to waver here at times.
After losing their top four offensive players, Arizona is a team in a state of flux after making the Elite Eight in back to back years. Ristic has the potential to step into a larger offensive role and display his skill set. He's a player to monitor throughout the course of the season and by continuing to add strength as he matures and showing he is well-rounded offensive player over a larger sample, Ristic could have a breakout season for the Wildcats and put himself on the map as an NBA prospect, as it's difficult to find 7-footers with the type of scoring instincts that he displays.