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.