Thursday, June 22nd, the National Basketball Association will host the 2017 Draft in Brooklyn, New York. Among those hoping to hear his name called is Kansas State’s own Wesley Iwundu.
Iwundu grew up in Houston, Texas, and credits his dad and brother for helping him stay focused both on and off the court as he prepares for the NBA draft. Most of his time has been spent in San Diego focusing on pre-draft work outs for various teams and focusing on getting stronger and becoming a more consistent spot-up shooter.
His pre-draft workouts have included the Utah Jazz, Toronto Raptors, Denver Nuggets, Portland Trail Blazers, and the Atlanta Hawks. All of the teams he’s worked out for seem intrigued by his unique blend of size, athleticism, and defensive skills. Maybe the biggest factor working in his favor is his ability to play various positions including SG, SF, and PF. Maybe NBA scouts and GM’s are prizing versatility from their players and Iwundu certainly has the size and skill to play various positions.
Bring on the Cats resident basketball guru, Eric Rubottom, didn’t have time for a full breakdown, but I did ask him a few questions about how Iwundu’s game translates at the NBA level:
Many have speculated that Iwundu lacks a traditional position, which could help him in terms of versatility. What do you see as a natural position for Wes at the NBA level?
IF we have to force Wes into a typical basketball position, he's probably better suited to play at the three right now. He lacks the overall quickness and outside scoring prowess to create shots on his own at the two-guard. However, if he puts a little more bulk on the frame and can get a little more explosive, I think he can play as a serviceable three. Ultimately, his skills set up to be a flex guard that can guard 2 through 4, depending on the lineup opposite him. He's going to be much more suitable to a process-driven offensive scheme, as opposed to the pick-and-roll game you see more and more. Today, I definitely see him as a poorer offensive version of an Trevor Ariza...maybe similar to an Al-Farouq Aminu.
Wes is the only K-State player to record 1,000 career points, 500 career rebounds, 300 career assists, and 100 career steals. Do you see him bringing that same type of all around game to the NBA?
That well-rounded profile, combined with his relative defensive versatility, is exactly why he's drawing attention. He's gonna be the kind of guy that can come off the bench, pick up a half-dozen points, four boards, and an assist or two, while maintaining a positive plus/minus while he's on the floor. He's not spectacular at any one thing, but he handles all aspects of the game well. That has value in a second-five rotation.
What's the biggest area Wes needs to improve upon to become a solid NBA contributor?
Wes needs to develop a legitimate shot with a quicker release, or he needs another 15 pounds of muscle. He doesn't get his shot off quickly enough to create his own shot against NBA-level defenders (i.e. he has to be WIIIIIDE open), and he doesn't have the bulk to really finish with the kind of contact he's gonna see. Without either, he's stuck in the no-man's land between an NBA off-guard and the small forward position. Being able to develop one of those two will make him start to look like a Shaun Livingston, for comparison's sake. If he ever wants to sniff a starting lineup, he's going to have to become a better scorer, period. I have seen some of his workout video, though, and it appears he is putting together a quicker, more compact shot. Good progress, anyway.
Iwundu appeared to be a solid defensive player in college and believes he has the skills to defend 1-3 at the next level. What's his biggest defensive strength?
Like I mentioned above, I actually think he's got the skills defensively to guard 2 through 4, not 1 through 3. I line him up against any starting points in the NBA, and he's gonna get torched because of the quickness and ability disparity. Even putting him across from a backup PG - Austin Rivers, Patty Mills, etc. - I just don't see the foot speed to stay with some of those guys, despite his length. I think his biggest defensive strength is his ability to understand how to defend one-on-one as well as team defense concept. Most of his steals are picking passes off, not straight-up rips. Most of his blocked shots are weak-side blocks. He's got the length to cause problems for many second-tier NBA players, and really anticipates help timing, rotations, and off-the-ball defense well.
Overall, Wes has a great chance to be the first Kansas State player drafted into the NBA since Bill Walker and Michael Beasley back in 2008. Draft express’s most recent mock draft has him going to the Philadelphia 76ers with the 39th pick, while NBAdraft.net has him going to the Los Angles Lakers with the 28th pick. CBS Sports has him headed to the Charlotte Hornets with the 41st pick, while Sports Illustrated projects him to go to the New Orleans Pelicans with the 40th pick.
Based on these mock drafts I think it’s safe to say Iwundu will likely be a surprise late first round pick, and most likely a middle second round selection. Regardless of the spot, its sure to be an exciting night in Brooklyn for Wesley Iwundu.