Player: Cory Jefferson.
Position: Power forward
Expected Draft Position: Mid second round.
College career: The Baylor pipeline isn't terribly strong for generating NBA talent. The school has produced the likes of Perry Jones III, Ekpe Udoh and Quincy Acy in recent years, all of whom have carved out very specific, if not unspectacular roles in the NBA.
Scott Drew should be commended for bringing that talent in, obviously. Baylor was a mere afterthought before he took over in the early 2000's, and he's made some big coups on the recruiting trail with the likes of Jones (seventh-rated prospect) and Isaiah Austin (third-rated prospect). Baylor has made it to the Elite Eight twice since 2010 and just recently made it to the Sweet 16 after routing the No. 3 seeded Creighton in the round of 32.
But the ebb and flow nature of Drew's program can be maddening. For every tourney run in the past decade, there's a trip to the NIT. Hell, even in 2010 when they started the year 17-0 and ranked in the top-5, they went 8-6 the rest of the season before righting the ship for their deep tourney run.
Cory Jefferson has seen it all. He's the rare fifth-year player that bided his time behind Baylor's more prized power forwards. He wasn't heavily regarded out of high school and was used sparingly before breaking out as a junior. It was the perfect storm for Jefferson, who teamed up with Austin to form one of the most tantalizing frontcourts in college basketball.
Austin, a 7'1", 225-pound center, had the ability to stretch defenses out with his ability to shoot the three and take opposing bigs off the dribble. He got pushed around inside due to his slight frame, but he was an elite rim protector that finished fourth in the nation in total blocks. (Sadly, his NBA dreams are over because of a rare genetic disorder). And Jefferson, an athletic, but skilled big can play the pick and roll game, cleans the glass and runs the floor well.
All of that makes for a tough out in the tournament. For all of Drew's blunders in installing a zone defense or his inability to construct an offense that runs through the post, Baylor has constantly overwhelmed opponents by producing matchup advantages all over the court.
And much of that is due to Jefferson making strides as a jump shooter. He regressed a bit this year, shooting just 38 percent on jumpers, down from 43 percent as a Junior. But it's still a major improvement from where he was before, and the improvement has even made its way to the college three-pointer.
Offense: Jefferson is still a work in progress. He has the workings of a good pick and roll threat, but the step back he took as a senior has left a lot of draft pundits coy on his future. He doubled his amount of attempts from midrange, but saw his percentages drop.
How much stock you put into that? Do you look at it as a necessary step into evolving as a pick and pop threat, or is it more of a regression to the mean? He gets good elevation on his jumper and has a consistent follow through. He does an excellent job of getting into his shooting motion and squaring up to the basket off the catch, but has a tendency to hesitate and second-guess himself with defending rushing to close out on him.
And part of that next step is learning to put the ball on the floor. At Baylor, a lot of the reps he took in pick and rolls would occur in the second and third actions of their offense with the ball moving from one side to the other. This forced the defense to continuously rotate and scramble, leaving Jefferson enough room to roll into the open space. He feasted on pick and rolls with Pierre Jackson in his third year because of all the attention the point guard attracted. Nearly 76 percent of his attempts at the rim were assisted on per hoop-math, so it's easy to see why his efficiency waned the following year.
The NBA won't grant him that much room to operate. The shot clock is 11 seconds shorter and defenders are a lot better at stunting to the roll man and forcing them into poor decisions. He'll need to read the floor better and take the next step as a shooter.
He certainly is a strong finisher, though. He takes long strides to the basket, and has the body control to finish in traffic. He may not have the softest touch and is a lot more effective going to his right, but he can finish around the basket.
Defense: There's going to be a learning curve here as there is with all college players branching away from zone-heavy schemes. Scott Drew used a lot of 1-3-1 and 2-3 zones, which meant Jefferson spent more time away from the basket and along the perimeter than he probably should have.
The good news is that it's enabled him to switch onto ball handlers comfortably. He slides his feet well, and uses his length and quickness to disrupt the timing of the offense.
But defending the post will be a problem. He has the timing to grow into a shot blocker, but is often late rotating over to clog up driving lanes. He'll need to build himself up more in order to push his man off the block and hold rebounding position, but he does have a nose for the ball and the drive to clean up the glass.
Pro potential/Wizards fit: This is another candidate to replace Trevor Booker. The tools are there, but he isn't quite ready to crack a rotation and could use some time in the D-League. He's older than most rookies in this draft class, having red-shirted his freshman season and staying on four years, but his development really didn't start until his third year.
He could be on the Wizards radar. You never want to read too much into pre-draft workouts, but he's the only prospect other than LaQuinton Ross to have worked out for the team twice, according to CSN Washington. Many of these workouts are simply driven to fill out the summer league roster or as a reference point if they ever choose to call one up from the D-League, but a second look could mean something more.
I do think more impact players will likely be on board if Washington chooses to keep their pick. I like Jefferson, but I don't he's worth it if the alternative is simply re-upping Kevin Seraphin for pennies on the dollar.