There is little explanation for what happened to Wesley Witherspoon after his sophomore year. The numbers decreased and so did his NBA draft stock.
Two years ago, Wesley Witherspoon was being talked about as a fringe first round candidate for the draft.
Now he is barely being discussed, and on many top 100 prospect lists, is barely hanging on.
What has changed with the Memphis Tiger between his sophomore and senior years? We go inside the numbers and the scouting reports in our latest mid-major draft profile to find out.
School: Memphis (Memphis, Tenn. | Conference USA)
Hometown: Atlanta, Ga.
Accolades: 1x 3rd team All-Conference USA, Conference USA 6th man of the Year as a frosh.
Team Record: 108-33
You can't help but think that Witherspoon looks across at his teammate Will Barton and wonders if that could have been him. Barton, whom we profiled yesterday, is leaving Memphis early and is projected to be a second round pick by someone.
Long and lanky for his size, tons of basketball talent, but concerns over his toughness because of his body shape.
That is almost exactly what the scouting report was on Witherspoon after his sophomore year. But instead of jumping to the NBA, he went back to school. Each year after, the numbers declined, and nothing about the profile for the Tiger forward changed.
There was no increase in strength. There was no improvement in shooting. If anything he took steps backward, and now finds himself with the possibility that he will be touring camps looking for a shot anywhere after the draft ends.
Final Season Averages:
7.2 pts... 1.1 asts...3.7 rebs...1.5 steals...1.2 turnovers..22.0 mins...44.4% FG...36.5% 3 PT...71.4% FT
After averaging double digits in scoring as a sophomore, Witherspoon's role in the Memphis offense was reduced in his last two seasons. His shooting percentage dropped in all areas, and there was no perceivable up-tick anywhere else in his game.
But if you had to pick one, it could be his defense, where he found ways to get hands on the ball to the tune of 1.5 steals per game.
That translated on the HOOPWAR scale to 7.76 points saved per every 100 minutes on the floor. It still didn't put him in the top five on his team (led by Barton, of course).
His lack of offensive contribution also led to him scoring just a 0.39 HOOPWAR per 30 games, putting him sixth on the Tigers. In a draft stacked with versatile wing players, the numbers have Witherspoon far down the list of candidates.
BEYOND THE NUMBERS
At 6-9, Witherspoon's size and length will allow teams to play him in several spots on the floor. His defensive ability also means he won't be a liability when guarding quicker players in the backcourt, or matching up against stronger players in the frontcourt.
Chad Ford points to Witherspoon's leaping ability as a plus, something that doesn't necessarily show up in his stats.
As with Barton, there is a concern that Witherspoon is still too thin, and lacking the strength to be an impact player at the NBA level. (At this point, we need just one more scouting report on a Memphis player like this to be a trend)
That he disappeared on the court between his sophomore and senior years should be another concern. While some scouts talk about his energy, it is hard to find it when a player regresses as much as Witherspoon did in two seasons. After that sophomore campaign, he was not an all-conference candidate, a defensive candidate, or even looked at for the 6th man award he took as a frosh (on the 33-win Tiger team that was the last under John Calipari).
It is looking like Witherspoon missed his window. You will never see me ripping on a guy for choosing to stay in school. Too many players leave early, and then have to develop in the league with limited minutes coming off the bench somewhere (if they are lucky enough to avoid the D-League).
Witherspoon needed work. He went back to school, and it didn't work out. There is no telling what would have happened had he bounced around in the NBA. Maybe he could have developed better. Maybe he could have gotten that NBA strength he needs.
Or maybe he would have been lost after two years, and then wouldn't have graduated either (which presumably should give him some fall-back options now).
It would be a shock to see Witherspoon taken, but he should get some camp invites.
NBA Combine: June 7-8