At just 18 years of age, Noah Vonleh is one the youngest prospects in the year’s NBA draft. Alongside fellow youngster Aaron Gordon and Kentucky’s Julius Randle, Vonleh is one of the most promising power forwards available this year.
While not rated particularly highly before the college year, Vonleh started to rocket up everyone’s draft boards once the scouts saw him in action for the Indiana Hoosiers. Averaging 11.3 points and 9.0 rebounds in just 26.5 minutes per game, Vonleh flashed some serious potential on both ends of the floor.
While his offensive game is still a work in progress, there’s much to like about it at this early stage. Vonleh showed that he has the ability to score in the post, possessing both right and left hand hook shots already. While there’s some work to be done on his footwork and passing out of the post, there’s no reason to think that Vonleh won’t be able to be an effective post scorer in the NBA. His offensive rebounding capability, he plucked down down 2.4 per game this year, should also translate well to the NBA.
His jumper isn’t too bad either. We saw Vonleh spot up and knock down jumpers on many occasions, as well as knocking down 48.5% of his three-point attempts, albeit this number's from a limited sample size. This bodes well for his jump to the NBA as the ability to hit open jumpers will allow him to develop as a stretch power forward and take spot up jumpers in the pick and roll.
The defensive side of his game is also promising. The statistic that jumps off the page is Vonleh’s 7’4 wingspan. His massive levers help Vonleh on the boards, while his size and strength allow him to box out extremely effectively. His huge wingspan also helps him disrupt passing lanes and block shots, despite not being the most athletic of big men. His 0.9 steals and 1.4 blocks per game are testament to his defensive upside.
There are, however, aspects of his defensive game where Vonleh needs to improve. He can be static at times, failing to make the correct rotations to help on driving and cutting guards, while the timing on his shot blocking could also use some work. The good thing for NBA teams is that these are parts of the game that are easily teachable and Vonleh’s age means there’ll be plenty of time for him to improve.
In terms of landing spots, it seems the Utah Jazz will be faced with a difficult choice at the 5th spot in the draft. If we assume that Embiid, Wiggins, Parker and Exum have all been taken, then the Jazz will be faced with Vonleh, Randle, Gordon and Marcus Smart. Given that the Jazz already have several promising big men in Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, it may be tempting to pass on all the power forwards available and pair Marcus Smart with Trey Burke in the backcourt, while even if the Jazz did decide to take a big man, there’s no telling which one they’ll choose giving the variations in all the prospect’s games.
At the 6th spot, the Celtics do need a big man. Should they not acquire Kevin Love this summer their need will be more immediate and may prefer the more polished Aaron Gordon, who could step into the C's starting line-up. Should this happen the Lakers would be more than happy to snap up Vonleh as a long-term power forward prospect, though I’d be surprised to see Vonleh fall that far given the upside he’s shown this year.