RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Luke BabbittPosted by rtmsf on June 21st, 2010
Over the course of the next month until the NBA Draft on June 24, RTC will be rolling out comprehensive profiles of the 30-35 collegians we feel have the best chance to hear their names called by David Stern in the first round that night. There won’t be any particular order to the list, but you can scroll back through all the finished profiles by clicking here.
Player Name: Luke Babbitt
Height/Weight: 6’9, 218
NBA Position: Small/Power Forward
Projected Draft Range: Mid-First Round
Overview: Much like fellow WAC star Paul George, most basketball fans would have a lot of trouble picking Luke Babbitt out of a lineup. When pressed, they might guess he was Kyle Singler or maybe even Gordon Hayward. But Babbitt will probably be selected higher than either of those collegiate stars as a result of his rare mixture of NBA-range shooting ability and post play. The 6’8 wing player who was named the WAC Player of the Year in 2010 averaged 21.9 PPG, 8.8 RPG and 2.1 APG while shooting over 50% from the floor last season, and in part because Nevada was only an NIT team, nobody outside of Reno and its environs has ever seen the kid play. Luckily for Babbitt, the scouts go everywhere to find talent, and depending on which pundit you believe, the Wolfpack sophomore could be looking at a draft spot from somewhere in the lottery to as far down as the mid-20s. The reason for the large disparity in his projection has to do with the fact that he’s considered a tweener with tremendous offensive skills who may really struggle to guard people at the next level. The big question is whether he’ll be able to overcome that deficiency to justify giving him minutes on the offensive end of the floor, and the general feeling among many is that he will figure out a way to do so.
Will Translate to the NBA: You can teach shooting to a certain extent, but those who have the magic touch usually have had it from a very early age. Babbitt is one of those players. You cannot leave this guy open out to 25 feet. The smooth lefty drained 75 treys in two seasons at Nevada at an excellent rate of 42% and utilized his mid-range game to draw numerous fouls for automatic points at the line (where he shot 89%). He has a number of crafty jab step and fadeaway moves both in the post and on faceups that he uses to create separation from his defender and get clean looks — more often than not, the shot results in the other team catching the ball out of the net. Babbitt is the kind of player who will be able to provide instant offense off the bench or as a third scoring option on the wing. His offensive repertoire is NBA-ready.
Needs Work: This will sound stereotypical, but there are legitimate questions about Babbitt’s ability to defend at the next level. At the small forward position, he doesn’t currently have the lateral quickness to stay in front of the explosive first steps of the players he’ll be asked to defend. At the power forward position, he doesn’t have the strength at 218 pounds to withstand nightly punishment in the post. If he hopes to find significant minutes in an NBA rotation, he will have to shore up one of these areas. The more likely option is that he adds muscle and gets used to blocking out bigger players down low. If he can do that successfully, he can become a solid player in this league.
Comparison Players: We like the Mike Dunleavy, Jr., comparison with the caveat that Babbitt is a better rebounder but not quite as naturally athletic. Both players can shoot the ball with range and use a variety of moves to get their looks. Given that Babbitt probably has a better nose for the ball and is more ready to play inside than Dunleavy, the comparison breaks down a little bit when projecting the kind of player Babbitt may become. Keith Van Horn, due to Babbitt’s similar offensive prowess, has also been thrown around as a fair comparison.
Best Case Scenario: The best case for Babbitt is that he flourishes as an offensive threat for a team that values scoring over defense. At the peak of his career, he receives upwards of thirty-five minutes a game and scores 15-18 PPG for a couple of seasons before tailing off. The knack for rebounding that he showed in college continues against bigger and more athletic players through grit and determination, and he becomes known throughout the league as a player who will scrap and claw at you on defense to make up for his lack of quickness. He may even get All-Star consideration during his best individual season, but regardless, he enjoys a solid ten-year career as a skilled scorer from anywhere on the floor.
2013 Projection: In three seasons, we’d expect to see Babbitt completely filled out and physically accustomed to the rigors of the NBA. His offensive talents have allowed him to earn progressively more minutes as his defensive skills slowly caught up. Now, he can hold his own in the post with most NBA power forwards, and while he will never make an all-defensive team, he’s not a complete liability either. His scoring output has crept above 15 PPG as his minutes have increased, and he has built a reputation as a player who cannot be left open in the mid-range or out to the three-point arc. He feasts on kickouts and ball reversals for long jumpers that keeps the defense honest.
Best NBA Fit: Babbitt’s best fit for the first few years of his career will be with a team that can value his explosive offensive repertoire while allowing him to grow defensively. Nearly every team has a need for instant offense, especially the zone-busting variety, but teams like the LA Clippers (#8) and Chicago Bulls (#17) in particular could undoubtedly use a sweet shooter off the bench to go along with their other weapons.