The second Arizona Wildcat to declare for the NBA Draft, Brandon Ashley, is just days away from finding out his fate in the NBA. The junior forward is officially listed at 6'8.25" and has been labeled as a "tweener" forward, putting him in a tough situation to find a role on an NBA team.
Since he's declared, his name has hardly been seen in any mock drafts. In fact, only nbadraft.net has him being drafted, going 49th to the Washington Wizards. DraftExpress.com has him ranked 91st among NBA prospects, meanwhile Yahoo! and CBS both have him going undrafted.
College Statistics and Accolades:
Ranked the No. 18 recruit and No. 5 power forward in the country for 2012, Brandon Ashley was the focal point of the 2012 recruiting class for Arizona.
He appeared in all 35 games his freshman year, and started in 21 of them. He averaged 7.3 points and 5.3 rebounds a game and showed a lot of promise going forward.
He greatly improved from year one to year two, appearing much more confident in his shot and defensive abilities, while also expanding his shooting range. He upped his averages to 11.5 points and 5.8 rebounds a game, leaving many to believe he would declare for the NBA Draft after the season. That all changed on February 1st, 2014, when Ashley suffered a broken foot in the opening minutes against Cal and was forced to miss the remainder of the season.
Returning for his junior season, Ashley was set to make a statement by coming back even stronger. It took him some time, but he slowly regained his confidence, admitting that he was playing scared early in the season worrying about injuring his foot again. In his junior season he bumped his scoring up to 12.2 points a game, while his rebounding average dropped slightly to 5.2 a game. His efforts earned him honorable mention All Pac-12.
Perhaps his biggest accolade came at the end of his junior season, as he was named Pac-12 Tournament Most Outstanding Player. He averaged 19.7 points and 6.3 rebounds in those three games, leading Arizona to its first Pac-12 Tournament Championship since 2002.
As a power forward, he can effectively stretch the floor with a consistent, albeit awkward looking, jumper. His best work comes from mid-range. In his junior year, he made 44% of his two-point jump shot attempts. But Ashley also expanded his range and became a capable three-point shooter. He made roughly 38% of his three point attempts at Arizona. His shooting abilities give him another layer of versatility, slowly developing him into more of a stretch four.
Aside from his ability to shoot the ball, scouts saw at the NBA Draft Combine that he has great length as a forward, with a wingspan of 7'2.35" and a standing reach of 8'9". He also has a 35" max vertical jump, which we've seen him utilize on defense. He is a solid post defender and has great discipline, staying straight up to avoid contact and alter shots. He made a living on defense coming off his defender for help defense, often pinning shots coming from the baseline against the backboard.
Ashley is also a pretty reliable free throw shooter for a forward, as he shot 72% from the line during his career at Arizona.
Since his foot injury, Brandon Ashley never seemed to be the same. He had lost his confidence throughout the season and didn't have the aggressiveness Sean Miller so craved. If he's going to survive at the next level, he must remain confident in his abilities to compete.
His lack of strength might also be an issue, especially on the offensive side. His post game was nearly nonexistent at Arizona and had trouble backing down some of the better forwards he matched up against. He had a pretty reliable floater and a decent hook shot, but didn't utilize his post game nearly as much as he could have - relying too much on his jump shot.
Defensively, while he is lengthy, he doesn't have great lateral quickness and often had trouble staying in front of athletic forwards.
How does he project at the next level?
His size definitely puts him in a tough situation. He'll most likely stick to playing at the power forward position, having to use his length against some of the bigger and stronger power forwards on defense. He can stretch the floor out on offense and can be used in a pick-and-roll game with a driving point guard as well.
It's hard to imagine him ever seeing the floor for more than 20 minutes a night in the NBA. He can either be a decent bench player on a struggling team, averaging around five, maybe seven points a night with a few rebounds, or he'll just be dressed in a nice suit for a playoff contender.
An NBA comparison is tough. First reaction was a smaller Channing Frye and Andrea Bargnani. Although Frye and Bargnani might be labeled as true stretch fours, while Ashley lacks the strength to play down low on both offense and defense. Another comparison that was brought up was Markieff Morris, which is probably a more accurate representation of Ashley's size and shooting ability.
In a few days, we'll have a better understanding of Brandon Ashley's future in the NBA. As of now, it seems as if he'll go undrafted and will have to work through the Summer League to make a roster. Of course, it only takes one team to see something in Brandon Ashley and pull the trigger in the second round.
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