The NBA draft will be held on Thursday, June 26th and there are two Cyclones hoping to hear their names called. Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane have done the pre-draft circuit, taking part in the combine and working out for various teams, but they will each learn what the next phase of their basketball careers holds at the end of this week. We'll start today, by looking at Ejim.
The Four-Year Progression
It's hard to believe that a little more than four years ago, Ejim, who was already committed to then Iowa State coach, Greg McDermott, reaffirmed his commitment to Fred Hoiberg. At the time, Ejim was a quality 3-star prospect that many thought could develop into a high-level starter in the Big 12, but you would have been hard-pressed to find anyone who thought that Ejim could one day become the Big 12 player of the year.
Ejim steadily improved as a player each year and became the first Cyclone since his head coach to appear in three NCAA tournaments. In '11-'12, he was a sidekick for Royce White. In '12-'13, he became a terror on the glass, leading the Big 12 in rebounding (9.3 per game). And this past year, he became the conference's top player.
It was a beautiful progression for Iowa State fans to watch and because of the success Ejim had, both on an individual and team level, many believe that his jersey should be hanging in the rafters of Hilton Coliseum.
The Scouting Report
At 6'6" 220 pounds, Ejim is a classic "tweener". While his size allowed him to create mismatches on the collegiate level, it will likely be the biggest red flag among NBA front office types. At that height, Ejim is going to have to show that he can play the small forward position in the Association.
Offensively, GMs will want to see that Ejim can consistently knock down the outside shot. Early on, Ejim was an abysmal three-point shooter, hitting only 22.6% of his threes as a freshman and sophomore, but as an upperclassman, that number climbed to 34.7%. It was reported that Ejim shot the ball very well at the combine, which may have alleviated some concerns scouts had about his tweener status.
Defensively, Ejim primarily faced the likes of guys like Thomas Robinson, Quincy Acy and Cory Jefferson in the Big 12, but if he projects as a small forward at the pro level, he'll be squaring off against the likes of Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony and Kawhi Leonard. Whether or not Ejim is athletic and versatile enough to check these types on the perimeter will go a long way in determining what path his career takes.
The Ideal Scenario
For Ejim, one of the biggest things going for him is that he's already versed in the NBA game. Under Hoiberg, Ejim learned the intricacies of the pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop and for four years, had the concepts of spacing and ball movement drilled into his head.
Ejim has to hope that the same offensive approach that has made his head coach such an attractive NBA candidate would trickle down to the player level and scouts would similarly take notice.
Be that as it may, Ejim may or may not be a ready-made type that can crack a roster immediately, but with some time and seasoning in perhaps the D-League, he could potentially get there. A team could take a flyer on Ejim in the second round and stash him away in the NBDL for a year or two while he continues to develop.
Tough to really predict what will happen here. Ejim is good enough to hear his name called in the second round on Thursday night, but without a true position, he could fall into the realm of the undrafted. That is by no means a death knell for his NBA chances as former Cyclones, Diante Garrett and Chris Babb, came from the undrafted pool to crack NBA rosters, but there is a certain pride that comes with being among the 60 players selected.
My best guess is that if Ejim does get drafted, it will be in the 50s by a playoff team looking for an intelligent player that they can develop over time.
Check back tomorrow as we will be looking at Iowa State's other draft hopeful, DeAndre Kane.