After leading his team in every major category this past year, Iowa State PF Royce White solidified himself as one of the most unique and intriguing prospects in this year's NBA Draft.
A big-time recruit out of high school, White signed with the hometown team - Tubby Smith's Minnesota Golden Gophers. However, White's intended college journey was derailed after a series of off the court incidents that were later partially attributed to an anxiety disorder. But after sitting out a year as a transfer, White assumed the role of a legitimate point-forward at Iowa State.
Under Cyclone coach Fred Hoiberg, White was given control of the offense and free rein to showcase both his broad array of skills and his flaws as a prospect. He flourished in a system where he largely dominated the ball, leading the team in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. However, that same reliance also highlighted his poor shooting.
From a physical standpoint, White is a remarkable specimen. He carries a powerful 260 pounds on his 6'8" frame, complimented by a 7'0" wingspan. What sets him apart from most power forwards at any level is the quickness and burst he maintains at his size. White's explosiveness is a key to his game; combined with his outstanding feel for the game, it allows him to do everything from run the point to dominate on the low block. He checked in at 261 pounds with 10.6% body fat at the NBA scouting combine -- numbers he'd be wise to maintain if he's to play a similarly versatile role at the next level.
Offensively, White can do just about everything but shoot the ball. He handles the ball like a guard and is far too quick for other power forwards foolish enough to press him when he has the ball in his hands. He consistently shows rare court vision whether on the perimeter or in the post and is a willing passer. He rebounds at a high rate and uses his frame effectively to establish position.
And then, there's his jumper. For all his many talents, White's jumper could be the thing that holds him back at the next level. If he could have forced defenders to respect his shot, he would have been an almost unstoppable force at the college level. With a jump-shot, it'd be tough to pass on White -- in the top 5.
However, for all his physical gifts, White has a ways to go on the defensive end of the floor. Offensively, he has the quickness of a wing, but he's a step or two slow when switching on the pick and roll defensively. White's post defense is fair, but he struggles with taller players there. At the next level, he will have to use his bulk to push taller players away from the basket, something he should be able to learn to do.
Trying to find a comparison for such a versatile player is difficult - Charles Barkley without a jump-shot? A less athletic LeBron James? Projecting his role at the professional level is even more difficult. Is a he a marquee player you build your offense (and team) around like the aforementioned players? The difficulty is that if he's not, limiting to a role player vastly under-utilizes his skill set.
While White is an undeniably tantalizing prospect, NBA GMs biggest question marks with him come from off the court. The fact that White's well-chronicled anxiety disorder was severe enough to keep him from flying with his team makes it a matter of particular concern to NBA teams. However, the reviews of White's individual interviews at the NBA Draft Combine have been overwhelmingly positive.
With a jumper and without the anxiety, White is a modern-day Charles Barkley. His skills and talent are that good.
Shooting the basketball is the easiest thing to practice, and paired with the reviews out of Chicago, White could be rising up the draft board. But if he's around at 17, Dallas might be able to steal a starting forward with top-5 talent.