Casual basketball fans look at the wiry, 6-foot-3, 180-pound Avery Bradley, his 11.6-point scoring average and 43.2 percent shooting in just one year at Texas -- not to mention the Longhorns' catastrophic collapse from No. 1 -- and wonder what all the fuss is about.
Yet, come Thursday night, Bradley could be an NBA draft lottery pick, taken among the top 14 picks and higher than senior teammate Damion James. It's possible that Bradley is the first Big 12 guard selected, if not the first Big 12 player taken overall (Kansas big man Cole Aldrich and swingman Xavier Henry, plus Baylor power forward Ekpe Udoh likely have the inside track).
So what is all the fuss over Bradley? He's got what NBA types like to call "upside."
"He's got that strong, wiry body in a 2-guard and he prefers the up-tempo game," NBA scouting director Ryan Blake said. "He's got great speed end-to-end, sort of that attack mentality on offense and the ability to get to the line and finish -- even though he didn't show a lot of that this year. He's somewhat versatile and a pretty good shooter."
However, Bradley is just a freshman and at this point no one's certain if he's a point guard or shooting guard. No matter the upside, there is plenty of risk spending a lottery pick on him. Blake compares Bradley to Alabama senior Mikhail Torrance. At 6-5, 210 pounds, the combo guard averaged 15.6 points and 5.1 assists as a senior. Although Torrance is projected as a second-round pick, Blake said there's an argument to be made that Torrance is the player more suited to contribute to a team immediately.
If Torrance were only a freshman, he might get the nod over Bradley.
The other side of the coin is the Brandon Jennings argument. Jennings went straight to Europe after high school, but didn't play much last year. That didn't stop the Milwaukee Bucks from taking him 10th overall. The pick paid off as Jennings was a rookie of the year candidate throughout the season.
What to make of Bradley will cause some serious headaches for general managers. Even moreso now that Bradley is sidelined with an ankle injury and had to forego the remainder of his workouts, so a number of GMs and coaches won't get a hands-on workout before the draft.
As of today, Bradley is all over the board in mock drafts. Of the 12 mock drafts by various publications displayed on NBA.com, Bradley is now as high as No. 10 on two boards, at No. 13 on another and No. 14 on another. On eight boards, he has slipped out of the top 14. ESPN.com Insider Chad Ford is one of those who think Bradley will go early -- No. 13 to Toronto.
That doesn't mean he won't gain late momentum and wind up a lottery pick anyway.
"He could be. He could be a guy that doesn’t get drafted in the first round," Blake said. "He could be a guy going low. Seriously, it's that type of draft."
And it could make for a long and nerve-racking night for Mr. Bradley.