Tony | Take a chance on Zack Rosen

· June 6, 2012, 10:21 pm   ·  Updated June 6, 2012, 11:27 pm

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“Why Not?”

It’s the title of one of Zack Rosen’s four NBA draft prospect blogs for draftexpress.com dating from mid-April. It’s also the question that all teams drafting near the bottom of the second round of the NBA Draft should ask themselves when considering whether or not to draft Rosen.

So why is it that the vast majority of NBA mock drafts aren’t projecting that Rosen will be selected on draft night, June 28?

Another good question. The consensus is that there is a subpar crop of point guards this year, so it’s not as if there’s no room for Rosen in the mix. Young guards will also be much cheaper to sign this summer than free agent veteran guards like Steve Nash and Andre Miller. So they’re economical, a crucial asset with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement eliminating cap room. And point guards will always be worth a shot for NBA scouts who painfully remember their “too slow” verdicts on Jeremy Lin from 2010.

Regardless of the current landscape of the NBA, Zack Rosen’s comfort in the role of floor general has created a crucial niche for him among his fellow rookie point guards.

As Quaker fans know, Rosen is a pass-first point guard at heart. How often did you see him force shots or take over possessions at the expense of Penn’s offensive flow? About as often as Jerome Allen lost his cool on the bench, right?

Conversely, how often did you watch Rosen master the pick-and-roll?

This is perhaps the million-dollar question, since the pick-and-roll is the most commonly used play in the NBA. That’s good news for Rosen, who routinely passed out of pick-and-roll situations at Penn, almost always reading the defense correctly.

Although Rosen’s detractors predict he will struggle to pass to teammates while coming off the roll against bigger defenders, he has consistently shown that he can pull up without hesitation and nail jumpers over them. He keeps defenses honest, regardless of size mismatches against him.

Pick-and-roll aside, we’ve known for years that Rosen is a consummate team player. He vocally pushes teammates and leads by example, playing tough defense and shooting a respectable .453 field-goal percentage as a senior, despite being the focal point of every opposing defense he faced last season.

Now the next level is finding out Rosen is a consummate professional team player too.

Rosen turned heads at last month’s Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, a showcase for college seniors on the fringe of NBA Draft projections. NBAdraftinsider.com observed Rosen at Portsmouth and concluded:

“The overwhelming thought out of the tournament was that Rosen was one of (if the) best point guards out there, leading his team very selflessly. In those types of showcases players are looking to stand out with individual performances, but Rosen took the opportunity to show he can lead any group of five players.”

Ryan Mattocks of NBAdraft.net also praised Rosen’s Portsmouth first-round performance:

“Rosen found guys in transition with user-friendly passes either off the bounce or of the lob variety. His understanding of the nuances of the game cannot be understated –– and coupled with his competitiveness may lead to a spot on an NBA roster.”

Will NBA scouts value his ability to run an offense enough to accept his perceived lack of athleticism as the second round progresses?

They should because even most of the top point guards in this draft lack his NBA-caliber court vision.

Likely first-round pick Marquis Teague may have quarterbacked national champion Kentucky last season, but NBA personnel have questioned his point guard game. Teague is notorious for his poor decision-making and turnovers, as well as his inability to set teammates up in a half-court offense.

Tony Wroten of the University of Washington, another likely first-rounder, averages a disturbing 3.9 turnovers per game, according to Joe Treutlein of draftexpress.com. Rosen averaged a much better 2.7 turnovers per game last season.

Treutlein concluded in March, “While Wroten has ample tools to play the point guard position in terms of his size, court vision and ball-handling, he’s never consistently shown the ability to run a team’s offense and balance his game.”

Rosen’s fellow All-Big 5 First Teamer Maalik Wayns of Villanova University, University of Kansas’ Tyshawn Taylor and Duke University’s Austin Rivers all also have average court vision. Scouts are concerned they may not be able to efficiently run a team.

While they’ll all be drafted ahead of Rosen, the unanimous Ivy League Player of the Year’s surprisingly unique niche as offensive facilitator should add to his draft value. The point guard position is easily the hardest to learn coming from college to the NBA, so Rosen’s natural ability to manage a half-court set will count for something if he ever gets to make that transition.

But will superior point guard instincts be enough for his name to be called three weeks from today?

In this draft, why not?

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