The 2012 NBA draft has been slated as one of the best classes for picking up a big man by scouts and GMs alike. Anthony Davis, Thomas Robinson and Andre Drummond have been hitting the headlines so far, each of them nearly guaranteed to be among the top six picks. If your team wasn’t lucky enough to have a top six pick in this year’s draft, you would still have John Henson, Tyler Zeller, Jared Sullinger, Meyers Leonard and Perry Jones III to contend with. Big men in the NBA normally take a few years to come into their own unless of course you find someone like Blake Griffin. Big men are a valuable commodity in the league as it really hard to find a functional big man as it is not everyday you find someone of that size who can be valuable on the court as well and if you are lucky enough to find one that functions well, he can be a cornerstone for the franchise for years to come.
However, this piece is not about any of the above mentioned, boded superstars of this years’ draft. It is about another big man who would have in the same conversation as these men(well we can say boys), if not for some of the most unique red flags ever put up against a player.
Royce White out of Iowa state is unique in his abilities and his play on court is also as unique as they come. He already has a NBA-ready body. In the recently concluded draft, he measured in at 6’8″(with shoes),the hand size – massive 11 1/2 inches across which was the widest among 60 attending players. He also impressed with his 7′ wingspan and a 261 pound frame, enough to bulldoze over any big man that likely competes with him in any workout or even in the NBA.
Hailing from the Twin Cities, he was Mr.Basketball in Minnesota in 2009 and went on to be recruited by the Gophers. His off court problems however soon caught up with him, charged with the theft of a laptop from the University of Minnesota dorm and then the final nail in his UMN coffin was hammered in when he was charged of shoplifting and 5th degree assault for shoving a security guard at the Mall of America. He never set foot on the court for the gold and maroon.
In 2010, John Calipari offered White a chance at salvation when he invited White to become a Kentucky Wildcat. However it was not to be. A panic set about from his anxiety disorders coupled with his flight fears resulted in him declining the chance to play for a top program in the country. He was finally transferred to Iowa State, a decision he would never live to regret. He had a more than impressive season for the Cyclones as he came into prominence on the national scene, finally delivering on the potential that all had seen in him. Under the guidance of Fred Hoiberg, he lead his team in 5 statistical categories on the way to become the Big 12 newcomer of the year.
He has a unique skill set for a big man,and more so for a big man of his size. He is not lanky like Anthony Davis who on first look can be presumed to be athletic but Royce White carries his 260 pound frame with such grace which one wouldn’t be able to conjure unless one sees him in action. He is basically a PG trapped in a PF forward. Fred Hoiberg was reluctant to use him as the main facilitator on the team, but once he did, he produced at rates unheard of (leads assists for a PF per 40mins in the DX database for the last decade). He combines ball handling,court vision, physical strength and a nack for rebounding in a way that bigs are not supposed to. White was in the top 5 in the Big 12 conference in both rebounding and assist. He can be used as a facilitator,can score off the dribble from the perimeter(has a nasty crossover) as well as be the go to guy in the low post where he already has an array of moves to get the ball in the hoop. No single play type made up more than 25% of his offense, according to synergy. He can use elbows as well as set screens offering the perfect roll man for the guards to pick out. So his versatility as an offensive weapon is for all to see.
The things I have said so far might make him look like Superman already in your eyes but of course, there are weaknesses in his game. He is said to be able to provide match-up headaches against opposing PF/SF with him being quicker than most PFs while bigger than most SFs. However for what I have seen, he wouldn’t be effective as a 3 in the NBA immediately. White brings to court a lot of things offensively, but what he lacks is a consistent jumpshot and in today’s NBA, the 3 has to have a good jumpshooting ability to demand regular playing minutes. Last year, he shot a modest 29.4% as a jump shooter, 31.4% as a spot up shooter while being only 49.8% effective from the FT line. Another knock against him for me — he is still a little vulnerable when it comes to the defensive side of things, if I may put it modestly. Although being a good one-on-one post defender, White lacks a certain anticipation and his efforts are not as concerted on the defensive end of the court.
He is an NBA ready prospect, who will give any team an offensive boost off the bench,a tantalizing prospect with room to grow. However,in most of his interviews, the questions weren’t about if he could play or not, it was about whether he could “fly”,whether he can keep his nerves. Royce White is a good kid but his problems are as unique as one would ever come across for a collegiate athlete. He has enough talent to be considered a lottery pick but his well documented fear of flying and anxiety disorders have had a detrimental effect on his draft stock. He represents a low risk, high reward type of draftee if you can get your hands on him beyond the lottery.
Somebody in the NBA circle has already been impressed enough for Royce White to stop working out. Chad Ford of ESPN recently tweeted that he believes he has been promised by the Celtics who hold picks 21 and 23 while Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated in his tweets begged to differ. Come June 28, someone will be the beneficiary of his talents if he can hold it all together, it just remains to be seen “who” .