Aaron White, PF, Iowa, 22 years old (turns 23 in September), 6'9", 220 pounds (via Draft Express).
16.4 points per game, 7.3 rebounds per game, 1.3 steals per game; 52.1 FG%, 35.6 3P%, 7.0 FTA/g, 81.9 FT%.
First-team All-Big Ten in 2015, third-team All-Big Ten in 2014 and 2013. Per his official bio, "Finished his Iowa career ranked first in Iowa games played (140), and free throw makes (618) and attempts (800), second in scoring (1,859), third in rebounding (901), and 14th in double-doubles (16)... made more free throws (618) than any Big Ten player the last 50 years and ranks third all-time in conference annals..." Among players who used at least 20% of their team's possessions, finished second in the NCAA in 2015 in Ken Pomeroy's offensive rating rankings. Finished ninth in win shares in the NCAA, per sports-reference.com.
White came to Iowa as a lightly recruited forward out of Strongsville, OH, and left as one of the best players in the school's history. Playing primarily at the power forward spot (with his junior year more at the three), White helped lead the program back to respectability after several years at the bottom of the Big Ten. White did a bit of everything for Iowa: cleaned the glass, pushed the ball on the break, scored in transition, finished lobs, drew fouls, generated steals, and, especially in his senior season, generated offense in his own right.
An unconventionally quick and athletic four in college, White generated points on offense in unconventional ways: off of offensive rebounds, catching the ball on the move to the rim or on lobs, finishing in transition, and, to a remarkable degree, by drawing fouls. He averaged 5.7 free throw attempts per game over the course of his career (7.0 in his senior year), drew over six fouls a game as a senior (47th best in the country), and converted his free throws once he got to the line (over 80% FT% in his junior and senior years). He had a preternatural ability to bend himself around and through opposing contact on his way to the rim, while using his long arms to avoid shot blockers and get up odd-angled shots. He was also an elite transition player, and really the engine to Iowa's fast break game. Has a good handle for a big and would often start the break himself off of a defensive rebound; failing that, would frequently be the first player streaking down the court behind the defense and would catch throw-ahead passes for easy layups or dunks. He is a good leaper and adept at finishing at the rim, an ability Iowa often used to generate points via backdoor lobs or alley-oops in transition. Overall, a very, very efficient scorer, albeit not a high-volume one: had an eFG% of 55.3% and a True Shooting % of 63.3% in his senior year on 9.6 FGA/g and 7.0 FTA/g.
But all of that is not why Iowa fans have such great affection for Aaron White; they love him in large part because of his long history of dunking on fools (skip to the 4:30 mark if you want to see him basically dunk Northwestern out of a game):
He generated quite a few steals by getting his long arms into passing lanes on the perimeter (and then was very good at taking those steals in for dunks). Was a very good defensive rebounder and used his leaping ability and length to serve as a decent help defender and occasional shot blocker. Not great on perimeter players, but showed versatility in his ability to at least temporarily handle players at any position on the court.
He was frequently praised by coaches for his intelligence and work ethic. Although a fairly big dude, he was at the same time sneaky and subtle on the court, watching his opponent for a lapse of attention and then sprinting into position for a rebound or lob. Constantly moving and outworking opponents for rebounds and fast breaks. Knows how to draw fouls by attacking his opponent quickly from unexpected angles or flailing at just the right time. Overall was very disciplined in taking only shots that were good efficiency plays for his game.
Until the last two months of his senior year, was a very poor jump shooter. Shot below 30% on threes his first three years, and only attempted 31 all year as a junior. Improved to 35.6% on threes as a senior, but on only 59 attempts, many of which were left purposely unguarded by opponents. Showed more shooting confidence and fluidity down the stretch, but it is hard to say whether that is a representative change or just a late-season blip. Has a slow, overly "concentrated" shooting stroke that works fine when unguarded, but makes it hard for him get a shot off over contests or off the dribble. His ability to improve in this area will really make or break him as a pro. He doesn't have the strength to score in the post as a traditional four in the NBA or the quickness to beat NBA threes off the dribble, so will need to improve his shot to survive as a tweener three/four hybrid.
He doesn't turn the ball over much (just 1.2 TO/g as a senior), but is also not remarkably creative as a passer (averaged 1.4 assists/g as a senior). Has a good enough handle to push the ball on the break, but is awkward breaking players down off the dribble in the half-court. Can get flustered when his straight-line drives to the basket are stymied. Was able to score in the post when matched up against smaller players, but is not a traditional post-up scorer.
Not the strongest player for his position or exceptionally quick laterally. Had trouble guarding quicker guards and small forwards on the perimeter, and not able to stonewall strong power forwards one-on-one. Will need to defend small forwards in the NBA, as he is likely not big or strong enough to guard opposing fours. Has a bad habit of gambling for home run steals and losing track of his defensive assignment.
Hard to know what his one elite NBA skill is. It's not shooting, it's not rebounding, it's not defense, so what is it? He succeeded in college by being too big for college small forwards, too quick for college power forwards, and generally more athletic than most college players, but won't be able to find the same mismatches in the pros.
White is fortunate that the draft is happening just a few weeks after Draymond Green and the Golden State Warriors won the NBA championship; it's a good time to be a versatile, playmaking big man. Which is not to say White comps to Green - he is not the defender or the passer that Green is - merely that Green has shown that there is a place in the NBA for unconventional forwards who fall outside the usual categories of small forward, power forward or stretch four. White has the defensive and offensive versatility to fill a variety of roles at once. He's not elite at anything, but he can do almost everything pretty well. If he develops a reliable three-point shot (a big if), he might comp to a good utility man in the league, such as Chris Copeland, Jonas Jerebko, or Marvin Williams.
White is also unfortunate that the Warriors just won, because Golden State demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that shooting is king in today's NBA. Ken Pomeroy's formulas once comped White to Derrick Williams, and while the comparison is not perfect (Williams was a lottery pick and outweighs White by 20 pounds), there are some thematic similarities. Williams was a player who was bigger, stronger and faster than almost everyone he faced in college, but found himself undersized at the four in the NBA and without the shooting or ball skills to succeed at the three. If White can't transform himself into an NBA three – which is what his height/weight dictates he probably will have to be – he will have a hard time finding a role on an NBA team.
Where's He Getting Drafted? [UPDATED 6/25]
ESPN's Chad Ford ($) has White going
#55 to San Antonio#56 to New Orleans.
doesn't have White getting draftedhas White going #58 to Philadelphia.
- Gary Parrish at CBS.com has White going #54 to Utah, while Sam Vecenie and Zach Harper, also at CBS.com, have White going undrafted.
NBADraft.net has White going
#47 to Philadelphia#55 to San Antonio.
Whoever drafts White will be taking a bit of a gamble: can a soon-to-be 23 year-old develop his shot to the level that he can become a serviceable NBA wing? The odds on that proposition are not good as a general rule, so some teams may shy away and opt instead for a higher-upside project. On the other hand, 6'9" players who are skilled with the ball in their hands and can rebound and get out in transition well are not exactly a dime a dozen. If a team looks at his good free throw shooting and decides that the raw materials are there to turn him into a reliable shooter, they might just find a steal late in the second round.