Team: Virginia Tech
Position: Combo guard
Expected draft position: Late first-early second round
SB Nation scouting report: Link.
SB Nation big board ranking: No. 17.
Draft Express ranking: No. 14.
BF draft board ranking: N/A.
College career: Erick Green is yet another local semi-product that eluded the best basketball state school in this area. (Sorry, that's my Maryland fan bias creeping through). OK, so maybe he wasn't exactly local. Green is from Winchester, VA and only played in the DMV during his senior year, when he transferred to Paul VI Catholic as a senior. Despite leading his school in Winchester to a Virginia Class AA title, he didn't receive a ton of national attention, eventually signing for Seth Greenberg and Virginia Tech.
After a poor freshman year, Green started to emerge as a key contributor. He was a critical secondary scorer in 2010-11 behind Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen, then emerged as Virginia Tech's top option as a junior.
But it was his senior year that saw him grow the most. In an attempt to improve his modest jump shot, Green was challenged to hit 20,000 jumpers in the offseason between his junior and senior year. His coach didn't think he'd get close. He surpassed the mark instead and returned to campus hoping that work would pay off.
And pay off it did. Green was expected to be one of the best players in the conference, but nobody expected him to be the leading scorer in the entire country. Fueled by a massive jump in scoring efficiency, Green averaged 25 points a game this season. His field-goal percentage skyrocketed to nearly 48 percent after being at 44 percent as a junior, and he figured out a way to get to the free-throw line eight times a contest after not even averaging four free-throw attempts per game as a junior.
All of that presented a weird dichotomy given how Virginia Tech's season actually went. As Green's production took a huge jump, the Hokies' fortunes spiraled downward. The departure of Seth Greenberg and the transfer of highly-touted, but disappointing freshman Dorian Finney-Smith already left the cupboard bare, but few expected James Johnson's debut season to turn out as badly as it did. While Green was fantastic, the Hokies' other two expected pillars, Jarell Eddie and Robert Brown, were inconsistent. Inside, only junior Cadarian Raines offered any sort of production. The Hokies were overmatched against quality ACC opponents, and after a fast start that included a win over Marcus Smart and Oklahoma State, the Hokies lost 19 of their last 25 games.
Was this Green's fault? Hardly. In fact, Green was remarkably efficient despite being the only legitimate threat on his team, averaging the fewest shot attempts for the country's leading scorer since Kevin Granger of Texas Southern in 1995-96. (Hat tip to this excellent Green profile by Mark Giannotto of the Washington Post for that stat). If anything, Green probably should have forced the issue more. It was common for Green to lay low early on in an attempt to get his bad teammates involved, contribute a flurry of points to keep the game close and watch his team come up short in the end because nobody joined him.
In the end, though, the ACC voters recognized the amazing season Green had, taking the unprecedented step of naming him ACC Player of the Year over Shane Larkin and Mason Plumlee despite being on the league's worst team.
Erick Green Draft Express scouting report.
Offense: No player in America had as diverse an offense skill-set as Green did last season. How else does someone score that efficiently despite playing with such terrible teammates?
The foundation of Green's offense is his pull-up jumper, honed in that summer at the gym. Green has beautiful balance on the shot and knows how to create space to pull up. He holds the ball very high and releases it over his head, making it easier for him to shoot over bigger players. Via Draft Express, no player in the country hit more pull-up jumpers than Green did last year. Green is especially lethal shooting in transition, where he's liable to stop and pop from anywhere on the floor.
The threat of the jump shot sets up the rest of his offensive game. Green isn't especially explosive going to the rim, but he has an array of floaters that he uses to compensate. He's also gotten really crafty at drawing fouls, using the threat of the jumper to force defenders to crowd and bump him as he drives.
Green's also especially good as a spot-up shooter and coming off screens. He didn't get a whole lot of opportunities to do the former given the lack of talent on the Hokies, but he was excellent in the limited chances he got. He's really, really good at setting up his man on baseline screens to get himself open, and does a nice job quickly reading the situation and making the right decision when he catches the ball, whether it's shooting, passing or going into the next play. Here's a really good example of his ability to catch and shoot off screens from the N.C. State game on the road.
Notice how he pretends like he's going right on the baseline, fooling Lorenzo Brown, one of the ACC's top perimeter defenders. Then, instead of curling, he reads Brown shooting the gap and fades to the opening in the corner for a three-pointer. Textbook stuff.
Green's passing ability is also very underrated. He's a good case study in why you can't measure court vision by assists (he averaged just 3.8 per game last season). To get an assist, the receiver must finish the play, and the Hokies failed Green in that regard so many times this season. Two glaring examples:
The second one kind of speaks for itself. I point out the first one because it's an example of Green making a great read in a transition situation and throwing an excellent left-handed bounce pass to an open shooter. If Green is to be an NBA point guard (and I think that's his future), he will make many decisions like that in transition. That he pulled it off is more important than his teammate actually finishing the play, because NBA shooters will nail that attempt far more often than his Hokies teammates did.
It's also worth noting that Green is as sure-handed a decision-maker as you'll see. He only turned the ball over on 9.3 percent of the Hokies' possessions while he was in the game, a microscopic number for someone who handled the ball as often as Green did. This is yet another piece of evidence showing that he makes the right passing reads and only posted low assist totals because his teammates let him down.
Green definitely has the potential to be an excellent pick and roll player. He makes strong shoot/pass reads, is capable of making the skip pass over the top of the defense and tends to hit his roll or pop man in stride, particularly with one-handed passes. It's hard to measure his scoring ability in these situations because every team trapped him, ignoring his other teammates. That won't happen in the NBA, so Green should have a much easier time creating space for his textbook pull-up jumper.
Considering all these skills, it's no accident that he was such an efficient high-volume scorer.
Erick Green NBA Draft combine interview, via Draft Express.
Defense: I wasn't in love with a lot of what I saw from Green on this end when I studied him on tape, though there are some caveats. He's not especially quick laterally, and I rarely saw him get into his man for the full 94 feet. His athletic numbers (steals + blocks/40 minutes) also weren't especially good this year, though he has done better in the past. There are legitimate questions about whether he has the foot speed to stay with quick point guards, even those on many team's second units.
That said, evaluating Green's defense is tricky because he needed to expend so much energy to keep Virginia Tech in games on the other end of the floor. He seems to understand positioning well enough, and perhaps he'll give more effort with a reduced role in the pros.
Pro potential/Wizards fit: Green is one of my favorite prospects in this draft and would be real solid as a third guard quarterbacking the Wizards' second unit. He can play on the ball or off it, making him an excellent potential partner with John Wall or Bradley Beal when needed. The Wizards need offense from their second unit, and while Randy Wittman may prefer a jitterbug that will defend the full 94 feet, it would be smart for Ernie Grunfeld to overrule him and go with the superior offensive player if he can.
There is a slight concern that he only became an NBA-quality prospect as a senior, but I am not too worried about it. You'll sometimes see cases of more experienced players physically dominating younger opponents, only to see that they can't do that to NBA-caliber athletes at the next level. There's a chance that also happens with Green, but he seems to have the necessary skills to translate into playing a role at the next level. He didn't usually score simply by bullying smaller players.
I tried desperately to use the Wizards' two second-round picks and other assets to trade up to snag Green in our SB Nation mock draft, but failed. If Ernie Grunfeld can succeed where I didn't, I'll be happy.