Local product Noah Vonleh is next up in our NBA Draft preview series. The 6-foot-9 power forward/center out of Indiana is a bit of an unknown heading into the draft. He’s sure to go in the top-10, but it’s difficult to get a good handle on his true pro potential. To his credit, Vonleh is an extremely hard worker who makes the most of his ability. Unfortunately for him, though, a lot of that ability is incredibly raw. During his one season in Bloomington, he’d dazzle in some games and disappear in others. Here’s a 10 GIF breakdown of his game:
Vonleh was very good playing one-on-one defense down low in college, and it looks like that success can translate to the NBA. He uses his 7-foot-4 wingspan to his advantage in order to cause trouble for the offensive player while staying in front without fouling.
Although his individual defense is strong, his help defense and rim protection isn’t as consistent. He isn’t always in the best position to help on drives, as shown here:
And even when he does get in position, his lack of explosiveness leaves him susceptible to strong guards, which will only hurt worse at the NBA level.
Vonleh is a project on defense. It’ll take years until he can match the defensive ability of a player like Serge Ibaka, both from a physical and a mental perspective. He needs to learn how to affect these shots better and get his body ready to do it. Vonleh can get there, but it’ll take time.
Vonleh does a few things quite well on offense. He’s developed a solid hook shot that should only get better with practice in the league:
He can face up in the high post and go to work:
And he’s even got a pretty smooth jumper, which helped him shoot 16-of-33 from deep last season:
That jumper makes him very useful in the pick-and-roll, since he can effectively pop for a shot or roll to the rim. But Vonleh is at his best when he keeps things simple. When a defense is prepared for his basic offense, it’s easy to shut him down. Take away his first move—usually a quick up-and-under or a spin move—and he’ll find himself out of control:
That lack of explosiveness hurts him on offense too, sometimes preventing him from finishing in traffic around the rim:
Motor and Basketball IQ
Vonleh led the Big 10 with 9 rebounds per game. He’s aggressive on both ends, ending possessions with defensive boards and keeping plays alive on the offensive end. His strong motor helps him do work on the glass:
He shows a strong basketball IQ when it comes to rebounding, which bodes well for his development in other areas. Vonleh is sometimes careless with the ball, not always making the right or the easy play. It affects his help defense, but it also hurts him on the offensive end:
It’s easy to look at Vonleh and hope for a mix of Chris Bosh and Serge Ibaka, maybe with a little less of Bosh’s offensive prowess and Ibaka’s athletic ability. That’s the upside for Vonleh. The downside could be that he’s overmatched athletically and doesn’t catch up mentally to the pro game, causing him to bounce around as a capable four-man but nothing more.