A Mishmash: Jordan Bell, Wes Iwundu, Frank Jackson, Alec Peters

Posted: 06/15/2017 by levcohen in Basketball, Draft

This is my last post on 2017 draft prospects. Although I’ve covered every single surefire first round pick (I think there are around 20 of those), there are still plenty of intriguing potential draftees left to discuss. It’d be impossible for me to go deep enough into the weeds to profile every single potential draftees, so today I’m cherrypicking four of the ones I most want to write about, for very different reasons. I want to write about Jordan Bell because he’s a fun player who was incredibly exciting to watch as he dominated the NCAA Tournament. Wes Iwundu intrigues me because of his 3-and-D potential. I’m writing about Frank Jackson because he was a five-star recruit who showed some flashes at Duke. And I’m writing about Alec Peters because nobody ever writes about Alec Peters, who had one heck of a career at Valparaiso. I’ll start with the biggest household name of the four, which is…

Had Chris Boucher not torn his ACL before the NCAA Tournament, I’m pretty sure Jordan Bell would be getting set to return to Oregon for his senior year right now. He had an efficient but quiet regular season, averaging 10.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.3 steals, and 2.3 blocks per contest while averaging 28.9 minutes per game. But the 6’10” Boucher went down, allowing Bell to showcase his potential as a big surrounded exclusively by perimeter-oriented players. He didn’t disappoint. In five games, he put up 12.6/13.2/3.2 blocks on 73% shooting from the field. He ended his Oregon career on the sourest of notes — he twice was unable to box out Kennedy Meeks after missed free throws — but there’s no doubt that he was one of the rising stars of the tourney. His best game came against Kansas in the Elite 8, when he blocked eight shots and totally destroyed KU’s dominant offense. If anyone ever asks you if rim protection matters, just direct them to that game. In addition to the eight shots he blocked, he altered many others by virtue of his tremendous verticality and countless more because he was inside the heads of Frank Mason (8-20), Devonte Graham (0-7), and Josh Jackson (3-8), three of the most explosive guards in the country. Bell was the backbone of Oregon’s defense, so the fact that the Ducks held Michigan and Kansas, perhaps the two hottest teams in the country at the time, to 68 and 60 points is very impressive and really boosts Bell’s stock.

Bell profiles as an elite defender. He makes up for his lack of size (6’9″) and length (6’11” wingspan) with great defensive instincts and unbelievable athleticism. He blocks shots when he’s on the ball and when he’s the weak side help. His 1.3 steals per game also indicate that he has quick hands. He also has the lateral speed to switch out onto guards on the perimeter and not embarrass himself. And while his lack of size might have kept him from being drafted five years ago, he’s very playable at center nowadays, especially if he puts on a little weight. I could see Bell being one of the best defensive centers in the league, although a few more inches would definitely be nice. It remains to be seen if he can guard big centers, but he can switch out on guards and provide elite rim protection, a very desirable combination. When he adds a little weight, he’ll be an even better rebounder.

Offensively, Bell is obviously more limited. But he makes things happen just by virtue of his effort and instincts. He’s a great offensive rebounder, can dunk over people, and can use his athleticism to finish at the rim fairly efficiently. He also shot 70% from the line this season, which is pretty good for someone with his offensive toolbox. I don’t think Bell will ever be able to stretch defenses out to three point range or provide a threat off the dribble, but he’s a scrappy player who can keep plays alive and contribute without a high usage rate. Pair that with his defense and you have a fringe first round pick. His lack of size and offensive versatility will keep him from going much higher than the late 20s.

Wesley Iwundu seems like a very familiar prospect. He has two things going for him: his physical tools, and his potential to be a 3-and-D wing. He’s 6’7″ with a 7’1″ wingspan, and he has nice athleticism and leaping ability and is a versatile player. As a senior for Kansas State, he had the ball in his hands a lot more than I would have expected. Only 16% of his usage came from spot-up situations, an absurdly low rate for a wing. More often, Iwundu would initiate a pick-and-roll, try to get his teammates involved, and then penetrate the defense. He played for a really dull and low-octane Kansas State offense, but he still managed to average 13/6.3/3.5 on 48/38/77 shooting as a senior. With that being said, he’s probably going to have to evolve a lot more in order to be an NBA-caliber wing. He’d better get more comfortable shooting off the catch, because he isn’t good enough to be a primary offense initiator in the NBA. In order to reach his potential, he’s going to need to become a good spot-up three point shooter, and he’s not close to being there yet. He shot 38% from three, but his stroke was inconsistent and he didn’t look comfortable with it. It has clearly improved over the last four years, but Iwundu is going to have to be more aggressive off the ball in order to free himself for the open looks that he’s comfortable taking. Given that he’s already 22-years-old, it’s more difficult to imagine him becoming a reliable threat from downtown than it would be to imagine the same of, say, Terrance Ferguson (the guy who played in Australia this past year). We also shouldn’t neglect Iwundu’s playmaking ability — he definitely flashed some of that at K-State, where his teammates weren’t the greatest. His 3.5:2.3 assist:turnover ratio isn’t great, but it’s not bad for a wing.

Iwundu isn’t an elite defender, largely because he looked tentative against the best wings he guarded, but he has the potential to be a versatile one, with the ability to guard small forwards and power forwards. He has length and athleticism, but I wish he were a more intuitive defender. With that being said, he has the size to eat up opposing wings and the athleticism to defend and rebound over bigger wings. I’m concerned that he will struggle with the physicality of the NBA, but he should be a good defender. Overall, I’m not convinced that Iwundu has the ability to be a consistent part of an NBA rotation. I like him, but I’ve seen a lot of similar prospects who have failed to make a difference in the NBA. The fact that he’s already 22 doesn’t help. His physical profile and versatility should ensure that he gets drafted, though.

Frank Jackson’s lone season at Duke can only be described as a disappointment. It was never going to be easy for him to seize the starting point guard role, but Jackson was actually given opportunities to seize the job when Allen was suspended. He never really impressed, and Duke was without a true pass-first point guard all season, one of the reasons they were knocked out by South Carolina in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. That’s not to say that Jackson didn’t play a lot, because he did. He was part of what was basically a six and a half man rotation (Harry Giles being the half), and he averaged 24.9 minutes per game. Jackson’s biggest strength is his overall scoring ability. He put up 11 points per game and was one of the most efficient freshmen guards in the country. He shot 47% from the floor, 40% from three, and 76% from the line. He’s a strong slasher and shot 57% around the rim, using his strength (he’s just 6’3″ but weighs in at 205 pounds) and athleticism to finish over and around bigger defenders. And he’s a great shooter, especially when he’s given time to set up and shoot. Athleticism, finishing ability, and shooting is a pretty good place to start.

My concern is that Jackson is more of a pure shooting guard than a combo guard or certainly a point guard. He hasn’t showcased any real ability to make plays for others, as he only averaged 1.7 assists per game for a Duke team that was overflowing with talent. He barely had an AST:TO ratio above one, and that makes him less versatile than I would like. Still, his shooting and athleticism give him the opportunity to eventually be a nice scoring option off the bench.

Defensively, Jackson’s helped by his 6’7″ wingspan and the effort he always gives when he’s on the floor. He’s definitely not a bad defender, but his defensive upside is limited by his lack of lateral quickness and his poor rebounding (2.5 per game). He’ll compete and scrap, but he won’t add much value defensively. All of this means that he’s a one-dimensional prospect. He can score, but he can’t really do anything else at the next level. He’ll have to become a better distributor in order to become a valuable role player, but he definitely has the potential to be a nice scorer off the bench.

Alec Peters is Valparaiso’s career leading scorer and rebounder. He set both records in January, about a month before he suffered a stress fracture in his leg, which robbed us of the likely pleasure of watching him play in the NCAA Tournament again. After starting the Horizon League slate 13-2 with Peters, Valpo closed out the season 1-2 without him, including a 43-41 loss in the first round of the conference tournament. Then, they bowed out in the first round of the NIT, losing to Illinois by 25. It was a disappointing end to what was a brilliant college career for Peters.

He wasn’t on my radar when I posted about the best three point shooters in the draft, but now I think he should have been. Peters’s average shooting this season (36% from three) masks what is an aesthetically pleasing (and productive) shot. Just watch his release:

Peters shot 44% from three as a junior and 47% as a sophomore. He shot 89% from the line this year. He has tremendous range, and profiles as an elite NBA shooter. That’s his calling card, and will continue to be at the next level. The question is whether Peters can find other ways to contribute. He certainly did at Valpo, where he averaged 23 points per game as a senior. He averaged 6.7 free throw attempts per game, and 44% of his shots came on post-ups or shots around the basket (per DraftExpress). He converted those shots at a 56% rate. Of course, that came against lackluster Horizon League defense, and I don’t think it’ll translate particularly smoothly to the NBA. I think he’ll end up being a pretty good post player, which gives him versatility that some other gunners don’t have. Another thing I like about Peters is his high basketball IQ and terrific instincts. He’s not just out there to gun three pointers. He can fit in well to any type of offense, and he developed into a good passer at his time at Valpo. If he can find a way to stay on the court defensively, I’m confident that he’ll be a good offensive player.

The defense is a different story. Peters holds his own on the boards and can play physically, but I don’t think there’s any question that he’s going to struggle defensively. He’s just 6’9″ with a 6’11” wingspan, hardly ideal size for a power forward. And he’s not really an NBA-level athlete. As an on-ball defender, he’s really going to struggle. I have confidence that he’ll able to play team defense pretty well thanks to his basketball IQ and competitiveness, but teams are going to attack him relentlessly, putting him in pick-and-rolls and forcing him to guard both bigger players and more explosive ones. It’s the Ryan Anderson conundrum. Anderson is a tremendous three point shooter and a horrific on-ball defensive player. The Rockets thought the offense he provided was worth the defensive sacrifice, playing him 31 minutes per game in the playoffs (29 in the regular season). Of course, that didn’t work out well for them, as Anderson was bad on both sides of the ball. But if Peters can become an Anderson-level player, someone who’s such a valuable offensive player that he can play in the playoffs, we’ll know that he’ll have been a steal in the 30-40 range or wherever he ends up going.

Here’s how I’d rank these four:

Full big board coming tomorrow.

  1. dpcathena says:

    Bring on the big board

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