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June 19, 2014

ITG Gators NBA Draft Preview

With the 2014 NBA Draft set to kick off in just one week from today (Thursday June 26 at 7 p.m.) Inside the Gators got in touch with Ryan Blake, the senior director of the NBA's scouting operations department, to discuss the three Florida Gators eligible to be selected in the two-round, 60-pick event.

Blake praised center Patric Young for his development and work ethic through the process, but he was none too pleased with how point guard Scottie Wilbekin and forward Casey Prather chose not to participate in the league's equivalent of the Senior Bowl, the Portsmouth Invitational.

Check out ITG's breakdown of each prospect along with Blake's analysis.

Casey Prather, Forward
2013-14 Statistics: 13.8 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.0 SPG, .630 FG%, .400 3PT%, .679 FT%
Projection: Undrafted
Visits: Philadelphia, Miami, Phoenix, Memphis, Denver, Utah, others scheduled

Breakdown: An athletic and versatile "power wing" without a reliable long-range jump shot, Prather stepped up his game in a major way as a senior but is still very much a work in progress. Unlikely to be picked in the draft, Prather will probably have to prove his worth in Summer League workouts where he can hope his athleticism wins him a spot at the end of a bench for a team willing to invest in him long-term. Otherwise, Prather could end up in the NBA D-League or overseas.

Blake's Take: "Casey was actually invited to Portsmouth, accepted the invitation and then pulled out of the event…which was bad advice. And then he asked to get back in when we had some space for alternates. Casey realized that pulling out was probably a mistake - it was a mistake. Casey is a very good player, he plays two positions, but still needs to refine his game. He's a guy that can make a team better from the bench, a team-oriented guy who has continued to develop throughout his career.

"What happens is that agents tell players not to play in the event so teams think, 'Hey, what's going on with Casey? Is there so much interested in him that he does not have to participate in the event?' When you have an avenue like Portsmouth, which is a combine and five-on-five tournament made to showcase seniors that may be otherwise overlooked, it gives these guys a great opportunity to show off that they otherwise will not get with the NBA Pre-Draft Combine.

"Casey would have benefited from playing in that format, especially with his athleticism, and would have excelled. Teams would have seen a diamond in the rough with the type of athleticism and versatility that would have helped him stand out against a lot of the competition there. As a result of not participating, he eliminated that opportunity and the road to making an NBA team is going to be tougher. He has a lot in his arsenal that will intrigue teams, and he should definitely get an opportunity in the Summer League."

Scottie Wilbekin, Point guard
2013-14 Statistics: 13.1 PPG, 3.6 APG, 2.4 RPG, 1.7 SPG, .402 FG%, .390 3PT%, .725 FT%
Projection: Late second round (50-60) or undrafted
Visits: Utah, Chicago, Memphis, Phoenix, Minnesota, New York, Charlotte, Indiana, Denver, San Antonio (scheduled), Orlando (scheduled)

Breakdown: A floor general who can also be successful without the ball in his hand, Wilbekin could thrive in a triangle offense or a system that uses elements of the triangle at the next level. His tremendous on-ball defense, high basketball IQ and court vision are all plus traits, while his shooting has steadily improved over a four-year college career. Character concerns will follow him after two college suspensions that nearly cost him his career at Florida. Those issues could see him go undrafted, though a NBA team could do worse than taking a flier on him in the second round.

Blake's Take: "Scottie accepted an invitation to Portsmouth but also pulled out of the event, probably because he thought he would get an invitation to the NBA Pre-Draft Combine. It was a major mistake, in my opinion, for someone who is a tough and gritty guard, a good defender, rarely makes mistakes on the court. He's a guy that can excel in a team format. I won't compare him to Jeremy Lin, but he's best when he is playing five-on-five and not just trying to show off his skills individually. Teams would get to evaluate his instincts, ball-handling skills, desire to win, aggressiveness and ability to attack the basket off the dribble.

"Every opportunity you have to interview with NBA teams, showcase your skills or put yourself on tape is a positive one for these prospects. I probably say this every year: the first round is the guaranteed money. There are only a few that get that opportunity. But if you get picked in the second round, you get assured of a legitimate opportunity with the team. Once you leave the second round, the chances of making the team are tougher. You have to do everything you can do give yourself the opportunity to be drafted, especially when you have character concerns. For a guy who is on the edge of being picked late or not being drafted, Scottie should have taken advantage of that opportunity but simply did not.

"He has enough skills. Will he get the opportunity ultimately? Yes, I think so. I think he lost some of the percent chance of getting that opportunity, but ultimately I think he will. I like the kid because he is so tough. He has skills but also needs to develop. I think teams will look at him and say, 'This is a guy I want to bring in and see how he performs in the Summer League.' Whether he will be chosen in the second round - that is very competitive. Some of the international players pulling out of the draft likely helped his chances, but Scottie is still going to be competing against guys that put great stuff on tape at Portsmouth like Markel Starks (Georgetown). When it comes to competition, sometimes you just have to take your deck of cards, lay them out and let the cards fall where they may."

Patric Young, Center
2013-14 Statistics: 11.0 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 0.8 APG, 1.1 BPG, .541 FG%, .596 FT%
Projection: Early second round (30-40)
Visits: Phoenix, San Antonio, Philadelphia, Chicago, New York, Oklahoma City, Utah, Dallas, Minnesota, Houston, L.A. Clippers, Boston (scheduled), Detroit (scheduled)

Breakdown: Young displayed maturity by knowing he was not ready for the NBA after his freshman season and staying with the Gators for four years. The result of his dedication to the program was a well-deserved SEC Defensive Player of the Year award in his final season as Young is a talented post defender with high upside in that role on the next level. He must still improve his rebounding and work on a more versatile offensive game but plenty of players have succeeded in the league - and made plenty of money - by cleaning up around the basket. Young will get drafted and should go early in the second round if not at the tail end of the first. A handful of teams without first-round picks are looking to buy into the 25-30 range.

Blake's Take: "This is what I like about Patric: He's made so many good choices. He's played so well within himself. He's so coachable. When you have someone and you get the media hype of 'this guy's going to be a lottery pick his freshman year' and yet he's not ready and makes the right decision and stays in school. Then he goes through his senior year and he plays within the system, and he's such an intelligent, smart and physical defender. And he improved on his game each year. He played well within himself and provides the extra effort you need to see. Then, you add all the physical tools.

"You have to remember, players do not stop developing when they finish school, whether it's freshman year or senior year. Players are going to get better, and Patric will be one of those players. He has the professional work ethic that resonates and that you want. You want someone who is a team player who can come in and be a part of the culture, wants that, accepts that and wants to be that. He doesn't have that huge desire to say, 'I'm the man. I'm going to be the man to make you the man.' Guards want centers like Patric. First-, second-, third-option guys want a type of player like Patric.

"He absolutely should be drafted in the second round. He's a BPA - best player available - type of guy, but it all goes to the old saying of 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder.' There are a lot of teams, as well as myself if I was running a team, that definitely want to get this kid."

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