Monday, June 8, 2009

NBA Draft Prospects: Austin Daye, Gonzaga

Stats: 12.7 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 2.1 bpg, 1.1 apg, 2.1 t/o's, 47.7% FG, 42.5% 3PT, 70.6% FT

Listed Size: 6'10", 190 lb, 6/5/1988 (21 years old)

(photo credit: Spokesman Review)

About Him: Offensively, Austin Daye is one of the most talented and versatile prospects in the draft. Standing a legitimate 6'10", Daye has the height (and wingspan) that can make him a threat in the post, but he also has the perimeter skills of a two guard.

It is precisely those perimeter skills that are making scouts salivate. Daye has a silky jumper, and while he does not get much elevation on his shot, his high release point makes it very difficult to defend. Already an excellent three-point shooter, Daye added much more consistency to his mid-range and pull-up jumpers this season. This is only helped by the fact that Daye has turned into a force in 1-on-1 situations. He is excellent when facing up a defender due to his array of jab steps and fakes. He has also improved his handle to the point enough that he is able to change directions when penetrating, often using what has turned into a pretty decent cross-over.

Daye has a tendency to pull-up and avoid getting all the way to the rim. The reason for this is also the biggest issue with Daye as a prospect. While Daye does have all the skills offensively to make him a match-up nightmare in the NBA, his body (and to a point his athleticism) is far from a finished product. Calling Daye slender would be a compliment - he weighed in at 192 lb at the NBA combine. Strength? Forget about it, he couldn't bench 185 lb once.

This is a big problem for Daye. To start, it completely eliminates his ability to play in the post. Defensively, he just can simply not guard people, even smaller defenders, because he cannot hold position. He is a good shotblocker, and seems to have a good grasp of positional defensive principles, but it is a matter of execution - he simply can't keep a stronger player from backing him down. It is more of the same offensively. Here is a guy that is 6'10" with great hands, excellent footwork, and a soft touch, but (according to Synergy Sports) he only scored on 12 of his 38 opportunities in a post up situation. He also, as I mentioned, struggled to finish when he put the ball on the floor, opting instead for a good amount of pull-up jumpers. As a result, he rarely got to the free throw line this year.

Before I rip him too much, Daye had two knee injuries during this last off-season, suffering a bone bruise and a partially torn acl. The acl injury left him out of action for about a month. During the season, Daye looked a step slower than he did as a freshman, and was forced to wear a bulky brace. His poor results in the athletics tests at the combine will more than likely make scouts question whether the injury had permanently hampered his athleticism.

The other big question mark with Daye is his attitude. Too often during the season, he would whine to officials about calls, sulk when he wasn't getting the ball, or let a poor shooting night affect the way that he was playing in other aspects of the game. It is never a good sign when a player lets the flow of the game affect the way he is playing as much as Daye does.

Comparisons: Best Case: Combination of Rashard Lewis and Tayshaun Prince; Worst Case: poor man's Austin Croshere.

Bottom Line: Daye could really use another season in college. He needs an off-season to put on mass and to get back to where he was as an athlete prior to his knee injury. Plus, with guys like Jeremy Pargo and Josh Heytvelt graduating, Daye should see much more than the 12.6 possessions he got per game as a sophomore. But based on his potential, there is a chance that Daye could sneak into the back end of the lottery, and will most likely be a first rounder. By coming back and having another average season, he could really hurt his draft stock.


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