Saturday, June 6, 2009

NBA Draft Prospects: BJ Mullens, Ohio State

Stats: 8.8 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.1 bpg, 63.8% FG, 55.9% FT

Listed Size: 7'0", 260 lb, 2/14/1989 (20 years old)

(photo credit: Ohio State Men's Basketball)

About Him: BJ Mullens has all the tools to be an excellent center in the NBA. He is a legitimate 7-footer (well, 6'11.75" without shoes) with above average length. While he does not yet have NBA strength, he is still young and has a frame that can easily handle another 15-20 lbs without affecting his athleticism. And that athleticism is what makes him such a tantalizing prospect. He runs the floor very well, can get off the ground, and he has excellent hands. Physically, he has just about everything you can ask for in a big man.

The problem is, that is all he has at this point. Offensively, he is not much more than a catch-and-finish guy. He did not show much in the way of a back-to-the-basket game during his one season in Columbus. Mullens struggled to establish position on the block, even when going up against smaller players, and was inconsistent with his turn-around jumper and his jump hook. He didn't have terrible form, he just does not as of yet have the ability to be a scoring threat in the post.

Where Mullens is dangerous on the offensive end is when he is moving and cutting. As I mentioned, he is an athletic, mobile big man with great hands. He was able to score when he got out and ran the floor on the break, when teammates found him on the block, or when he cut to the rim, usually off of a pick-and-roll or alley-oop. There are two problems that factor in here. For starters, Mullens relies almost completely on his teammates setting him up for scoring opportunities right now. But the bigger issue is that most of Mullens points came on finishing at the rim. In college, he was bigger and more athletic than almost any opponent he faced, but that won't be true in the NBA. Mullens is going to have to add some strength and variety to his game if he wants to be an offensive threat.

He is going to need to be an offensive threat in the league, because he was not a great defender for the Buckeyes. According to reports, one of the reasons why Mullens played so few minutes at the start of the season was not because he couldn't contribute offensively, but because he didn't understand Thad Matta's defensive schemes. It makes sense if you watched Mullens play, as he seemed lost at times on defensive rotations. For someone with his size and athleticism, he was not a great shotblocker, getting just over two per 40 minutes.

The issue was not as much a problem of effort (he did work hard, especially when he ended up in 1-on-1 situations in the post) as it was of basketball IQ. Mullens did not get a lot of great coaching early on in his career, and he is still really learning how to play the game, on both ends of the floor. So while he still needs to develop things like his strength and his post moves, he also needs to improve on much more subtle aspects of the game, like understanding angles in the post or improving his reaction time on help side defense (which will be even more important with the NBA's defensive three-second rule). He also struggles as a passer, as he doesn't yet see the floor well. On the season, Mullens had 51 turnovers and just 9 assists.

Comparisons: Best Case: Andrew Bynum, Chris Kaman; Worst Case: Patrick O'Bryant, any other big man bust.

Bottom Line: Mullens showed some improvement throughout the season, scoring in double figures in 11 of the first 14 Big Ten conference games. While he does have his downfalls, he is only 20 years old and has a ton of potential. The team that takes him is going to need to understand that Mullens is a project, but if he puts in the work, Mullens could end up being a starting center in the league.


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