Wednesday, June 23, 2010

NBA Draft Prospects: Willie Warren, Oklahoma

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Stats: 16.3 ppg, 4.1 apg, 3.8 t/o's, 1.0 spg, 43.8% FG, 30.9% 3PT


  • Listed: 6'4", 200 lb, 20 yrs old
  • Combine: 6'3 3/4" (with shoes), 208 lb, 6'6" (wingspan)

About Him: Willie Warren is the posterboy for the dangers of returning to school. After a freshman season that saw Warren team with Blake Griffin to lead Oklahoma to the Elite 8, many NBA Draftniks had Warren slotted somewhere in the mid-to-late lottery. But Jeff Capel was able to convince Warren to return for his sophomore season, and the results were terrible.

Warren sleep-walked through a couple of embarrassing early performances, putting him in Capel's doghouse -- and even seeing Capel call him out in the national media -- and getting himself suspended for a game. He dealt with a nagging ankle injury that just wouldn't seem to go away and caught mono late in the season. Safe to say, nothing went right for Warren this past season.

The knock on Warren coming out of high school was that he was selfish and a locker room cancer. As a freshman, you saw none of that. While he did throw up the typical freshman shots now and again, for the most part he deferred to Griffin and allowed the big man to carry the Sooners as one of the best teams in the country for the majority of the season. This year, you saw none of that. He had terrible body language on the court, he dribbled the air out of the ball far too often, he turned the ball over at a horrific rate -- 4.6 per 40 minutes, almost a quarter of his possessions -- and his shooting percentages took a nose dive as a result of his poor shot selection.

In terms of intangibles and off-the-court stuff, there is nothing about Warren that suggests he is destined to be a good teammate, let alone a good player.

Having said all of that, Warren is a tremendous talent, and his skill set would fit perfectly in the NBA. Warren is a combo-guard, and given his measurments at the combine -- nearly 6'4" in shoes, 6'6" wingspan -- its reasonable to believe that he would be able to defend both the point guard and the two-guard spots, especially against second team players.

Warren is at his best when he has the ball in his hands, as he is a 'shot-creator' in the purest sense of the word. He in a very good ball handler, and when combined with his excellent first step and his powerful build, he's difficult to prevent from penetrating. He's an explosive finisher in and around the rim -- especially when he has a few steps to gather himself -- and he has the strength to absorb contact and make some very tough shots around the basket. He has a massive array of floaters, runners, scoop shots, etc.

While its difficult to say that Warren improved on any aspect of his game as a sophomore, it is fair to say that he became a much better shooter off the dribble and in the mid-range this season. His three point numbers took a hit, but there is some explanation for that. He took much more difficult shots -- deep, contested threes off the dribble -- this past season, as opposed to the wide-open, catch-and-shoot opportunities he got off of teams doubling Griffin inside.

While his numbers and performance this season don't necessarily bode well for Warren as a passer, he actually is a capable distributor. He's very good in the pick-and-roll, and he knows how to drive-and-dish when he draws a defender. The question is whether or not he will be willing to do so.

On the defensive side of the ball, Warren is a bit of a tweener. Is he quick enough to guard an NBA point guard? Is he big enough to guard an NBA two? Worse is the fact that Warren just didn't seem interested on the defensive end of the floor last season. Will he actually put in the effort to be a good defender?

  • Best Case Scenario: The standard comparison for Warren is Ben Gordon, which is far from a terrible comparison. I think a Rodney Stuckey or a Tyreke Evans -- or more likely Jarrett Jack -- is a better comparison. I think Warren eventually slides over and becomes a lead guard.
  • Worst Case Scenario: Flip Murray or Rashad McCants.
Outlook: I wouldn't be surprised if an NBA team used a first round pick on Warren. There is just too much talent there -- talent that can succeed in the NBA -- for him not to go. But for that to happen, he is going to have to convince some NBA team that his issues are behind him. There are a lot of red flags surrounding Warren, and while I think he could thrive in the more uptempo NBA, I have a tough time believing his issues are going to go away.


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