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Evaluating Aaron White’s NBA potential after a successful season in Europe

Iowa v Gonzaga Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Aaron White, the Wizards’ second round draft pick in 2015, is coming off of his most successful pro season to date. He was a key contributor for Zalgiris Kaunas, who made it all the way to the Euroleague Final Four this season before they were knocked by Jan Vesely and Fenerbache in the semifinals.

It was a great team year for White, but more importantly, it was a good year for him in terms of skill development. Some of his raw numbers went down, but he got better at what he’ll need to hone if he wants to fill a role in the NBA. He shot 38.5 percent from deep in Euroleague competition, which is easily his best percentage as a pro, and well ahead of any percentage he shot in college at Iowa. He also got better at attacking closeouts, as you’ll see in this highlight video.

Ben Standig of The Sports Capitol reported last week White is interested in coming stateside this summer and the Wizards appear to be pleased with his progress. If he came over this summer, he’d be following a similar blueprint to fellow Wizards second round pick Tomas Satoransky, who played four years in Spain after he was drafted before he made the jump.

But how would he translate to the NBA? Back when John Hollinger worked at ESPN, he put together a formula to translate a player’s production in Euroleague to the NBA. Scoring rates and efficiency go down, but rebounding and assist rates go up due to changes in pace of play and scorekeeping. Here’s how White’s performance this season would have translated:

Those numbers are good enough to put you right around the fringe of an NBA rotation. He wouldn’t replace Mike Scott, but he could be a nice alternative to Jason Smith, who averaged 14.3/6.7/1.8 per 36 this season, but was much less efficient shooting the ball. A good comp this season for White would be T.J. Leaf, who averaged 12.2 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 0.7 assists per 36 minutes while shooting 47.1 percent from the field with a 10.5 PER in his rookie season with the Pacers.

The problem for White here is that we’re comparing him to someone over four years younger than him. Leaf just turned 21 in April, and White will turn 26 in September. There’s still time for White to improve and get better, especially if he’s playing against NBA talent day in and day out, but there will be other second rounders out there who can provide comparable impact right away with a chance at being much better in the future. At the same time, there’s also a chance you could take someone in the second round who flops and never reaches White’s level.

It’s all a matter of what risk the Wizards want to take with what little money they have to spend this summer. White is a safe bet to be an adequate 11th or 12th guy with a chance to be something a little more than that if he acclimates well to the NBA. That’s a fair value for someone on a minimum deal, so if you value cost-control, he’s a good option. However, if you’d rather take that roster spot to go after someone with more boom-or-bust potential, you’re probably better off looking elsewhere.