You're going to hear a lot of names get bounced around as players the Wizards could be looking at with their picks. Scouting reports and highlight reels can help you get a feel for some of the players, but nothing can replace the knowledge and insight that you get from watching a player on a night-in, night-out basis.
In order to get that kind of feel, you really need to talk to someone that's a true fan of the team. And if you want a more informed feeling for who you're looking at, it always helps if you can find a couple of bloggers who follow the university's athletic program. With that in mind, we're enlisting the help of some of the college hoops bloggers out there to get a better feel for some of the players the Wizards might end up drafting, especially the ones that can be found later in the draft who might not be getting the publicity of a James Harden or a Tyreke Evans.
For our first segment, we're turning to The Slipper Still Fits for a look at Gonzaga big man Josh Heytvelt.
In what areas do you think Heytvelt will be able to contribute right away on an NBA team?
I think that Josh can make an immediate impact as a pick and pop type of big game. For his size, which is a legit 6'11, Josh has an incredible shooting touch. He was a confident shooter at the collegiate level all the way out to the three point line, and I see no reason why that wouldn't translate well at the next level. Josh also moves well for a guy his size, and if motivated (which is always a question with Josh), he could be a force on the offensive glass, and could score a handful of points off offensive rebounds.
After a junior season that was hampered with foot surgery and legal issues, he seemed return to the form he played at in his sophomore season, at least statistically. Is that a fair assessment or did his game change between his breakout sophomore season and now?
Josh has not, and likely will never return to the form of his sophomore season. Many people forget that Josh was a potential lottery pick during his sophomore year, but then it all when up in flames with his suspension. In his final game before being suspended, Josh went for 27 points and 22 rebounds against Pepperdine, and earlier in the season, completely dominated Tyler Hansbrough at Madison Square Garden.
(Here are highlights of Josh from that game)
(Check out this dunk during his sophomore year)
The main difference in Josh now is that he is bulkier, and has never regained the athleticism that he lost after the numerous foot and ankle problems he had. Before the injury, Josh was a dominant shot blocker and rebounder, and could throwdown some seriously vicious dunks. Because of the injuries and his attempt to be bulkier to play in the post, Josh lost some of the freakish athleticism that made him such a unique and coveted prospect during his sophomore year.
If there's one player that you could compare him to either on the collegiate level or the pro level, who would it be?
This is tough, but the best I can think of is a poor man's Pau Gasol. I say this because they are both extremely skilled big guys, and each has incredible touch on the offensive end for a guy that size. At the same time, I don't think you would consider either Pau or Josh to be "tough", or a true post. Josh actually possesses a fairly nice hook shot, very similar to Gasol, but at this point, I would consider Pau to be the better rebounder of the two.
A lot of people will assume that because Heytvelt is a big man with a three point shot that he must be soft. Yet, Gonzaga finished in the top 20 defensively, so clearly he wasn't a sieve out there. How did he help Gonzaga defensive side of the ball?
To be honest, Gonzaga was not necessarily the great defensive team that the numbers seem to indicate. Against some of the top teams the Zags played this past year (UConn, Memphis, UNC, Tennessee), the Zags gave up a ton of points. Equally important to note is the fact that Josh is not a great defender or rebounder for a guy his size. Josh is certainly an intimidating guy in the paint because of his size, but he bites on pump fakes, and is prone to foul trouble. Equally frustrating about Josh is how poor of a rebounder he is for his size. For example, against UNC in the Sweet 16, Josh secured 0 rebounds throughout the game.
The one positive that Josh brings on the defensive end is that he is a good shot blocker. He does have good timing (maybe because he bites on every shot fake, so he is bound to get it right every once in awhile), and when he does block a shot with authority. Also, like many bigs, when he is in the flow of the offense, his game typically improves dramatically on the defensive end.
There's always a chance that some teams might be scared off by his arrest on drug possession charges from 2007. Is this still a cause for concern, or do you think he's learned from that experience?
This is one area where you must give Josh a lot of credit. By all accounts, both from what has been said to the media, and what we hear around campus, Josh has improved dramatically as a teammate and a person since the drug incident. Josh has a young daughter, and I think that being arrested brought his family and his future more into focus for him. This past semester, Josh was a dean's list member (3.5 GPA and above), and has not had any other incidents since. Josh definitely realizes what is at stake, I don't think that there is anything NBA teams need to worry about in that regard.
Many thanks to The Slipper Still Fits for their insights on Josh Heytvelt. If you're looking for some great Gonzaga coverage or just a place where you can argue over whether or not Blake Stepp was better than Dan Dickau, you know where to look.