The 2015 NBA Draft could be a banner year for the West Coast Conference. The tiny mid-major conference is often lucky to have even one player taken in the draft, but this year could be different. While there are no stars heading for top picks like an Adam Morrison or Kelly Olynyk, there are some solid players who could hear their name called later in the draft. Having multiple WCC players get taken is a very real and likely possibility.
So how NBA-ready are the WCC draft prospects hoping to hear good new this week? Here’s our picks for a starting five using the best WCC draft prospects coming out of school this year.
Point Guard – Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga: Pangos is one of the most highly regarded players coming out of the WCC this year, an he should be the first player from the conference taken. His court vision shines on both ends of the floor, and teams will find a lot of value in his ability to create offense. It also doesn’t hurt that he has a silky smooth outside shot. A guy who can bury a dagger from long range always has some value.
He’s a good prototypical point guard. He’s not big, but he’s very complete. It feels like he has been around forever, and he should have the veteran mentality that will give him confidence to succeed in the pros. You could a do a lot worse than to build your backcourt around Pangos.
Shooting Guard – Tyler Haws, BYU: Can Haws be the elite scorer he was in college at the professional level? Some team is going to give him a chance to prove it. His ability to score is a fine complement to Pangos, and it makes him an ideal Shooting Guard.
Haws has the ability to find the basket. He shouldn’t be afraid to go against bigger competition, so there no reason to doubt he won’t get points. With Pangos and the rest of this roster around him, Haws can focus solely on what he does best: putting the ball in the net.
Small Forward – Kruize Pinkins, San Francisco: Forward is very weak for the WCC this year. The two star underclassmen who would have been the best draft prospects the conference could offer are not available as both Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis have both decided to give Gonzaga at least one more year.
Pinkins was more of a Power Forward in college, but in the pros where everything is bigger, he can slide into a Small Forward role. He gets points and rebounds, but is also a deadly shooter. He’s a great all-around player that would make him an ideal wing player in the NBA. He can bang inside when needed, but can sit on the outside and hit shots as well.
Power Forward – Thomas Van Der Mars, Portland: Sticking with the theme of sliding big men to smaller positions to field a larger lineup that can compete at the top level, Van Der Mars moves from Center to the Power Forward position. It would be nice to have a little more athleticism and defense at these forward positions than we might get with Van Der Mars and Pinkins, but there are great benefits to this lineup.
Van Der Mars can focus on crashing the boards and supporting the center. By not needing to carry the offense with his scoring, he can become more of problem inside for opponents. I don’t care if he is only putting up 5-7 points per game, his job is to pull down rebounds and win that battle.
Center – Brad Waldow, Saint Mary’s: The top center in basektball this past season was Jahlil Okafor, the super-freshman from Duke who will be once of the first three or so players drafted. Arguably the next best center statistically was, very quietly, Brad Waldow. He is built to be a quality Center just like Okafor: big, strong, with just enough finesse.
Even in the NBA a good Center is hard to find, making Waldow a very valuable commodity. With the support down low of Van Der Mars and Pinkins taking some of the attention away from the paint, Waldow should have enough room to some damage. To have an option inside like Waldow to complement the outside scoring is huge.
Sixth Man – Gary Bell Jr., Gonzaga: The starting five is a little weak on defense, making Bell Jr. the perfect first man off the bench. The WCC Defensive Player of the Year can lock down on a guard or wing player when needed, something he does very well.
This is no knock on Bell Jr., but he is probably best suited to come off the bench. Around to many scorers, his offense gets lost. At a higher level, he can do a lot more damage focusing purely on his defense in short spurts. Don’t be shocked if finds a lot of success in a reduced role like this one.
Bench: As you might guess, we’re a little shallow on the bench. It’s still the WCC after all, so it’s going to be a bit top-heavy with talent. But there are some decent role players available including Johnny Dee of San Diego, Brandon Clark of Santa Clara, Kevin Bailey of Portland, and Kerry Carter and Aaron Bright of Saint Mary’s.
That’s a pretty guard-centric group, so you can take your choice. Carter is an excellent all-around player, but small in size. Bright is a wizard with the ball and a solid shooter. I like Bright, and taking a flyer on Carter to see if he can make it against tougher competition. Dee is extremely one-dimensional, but he’s one of the best shooters you can find in the entire nation. Throw him deeper on the bench and you have a great clutch option when you need some outside shooting. Clark is a great scorer and might be able to cover a smaller forward if needed, so let’s throw him in there as well.
For the big men, it’s a little clearer, although there are still quite a few options. I like Desmond Simmons of Saint Mary’s and Volodymyr Gerun of Portland for their rebounding. And Byron Wesley would make a quality wing player. Considering the forward positions are overall weaker than they could be, that’s a nice group.
THE WCC 2015 NBA ROSTER
Kevin Pangos – PG
Tyler Haws – SG
Kruize Pinkins – SF
Thomas Van Der Mars – PF
Brad Waldow – C
Gary Bell Jr.