2011 NBA Draft: Could Mickey McConnell Have A J.J. Barea-Like Future In The NBA?

There hasn't been much buzz surrounding 2011 NBA Draft prospect Mickey McConnell and, since he seems like an interesting enough player, Ridiculous Upside has decided to do its part at changing that. The six-foot point guard spent the last four seasons at St. Mary's and, after starting in the shadows of Patty Mills, he currently holds the distinction of being the reigning WCC Player of the Year.

McConnell averaged 16.4 points and 6.1 assists while hitting 46 percent of his three-point attempts as a senior. Now, after being selected in the MLB Draft last week by the Los Angeles Dodgers, the sharp-shooter is hoping to go 2-for-2 by being selected in next week's NBA Draft.

It doesn't look like likely -- neither Draft Express or ESPN lists the pure point guard among their top 100 prospects -- but that doesn't necessarily mean NBA decision makers won't be kicking themselves if they don't at least consider McConnell in the latter half of the second round.

To be fair to those that pass on him, McConnell isn't the prototypical NBA prospect: He's undersized (though he did measure in at a taller-than-expected 5-foot-11¾ at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament ahead of fellow Draft prospects Kemba Walker and Isaiah Thomas), he's not going to throw down any sort of slam dunks that make SportsCenter's Top 10 plays and his defense is no better than average for a player of his stature. 

Those deficiencies haven't kept players like newly-crowned NBA Champion J.J. Barea of the Dallas Mavericks out of the NBA (despite his going undrafted in the 2006 NBA Draft following four solid years at Northeastern), though, leaving hope toward a similar NBA future for McConnell.

The Barea comparison isn't perfect, for sure, but they both are able to fill a similar role in the NBA as smaller change-of-pace point guards able to run the offense, knockdown shots and create havoc in the lane with their seemingly reckless drives to the basket like little pinballs amongst the trees of 7-footers.

The best NBA asset in McConnell's arsenal, despite his lights-out shooting ability from a range most college fans thought only Jimmer Fredette had, is his ability to run a team in the half-court. I might not go as far as Mark Deeks from ShamSports and say McConnell is the best pure point guard in this year's draft class, but he is very good. 

McConnell showed time and time again, while leading the Gaels to a 25-9 record this past season, that his ability to set up the offense -- and his teammates -- is among the very best because he's patient, he makes good reads and picks his spots well enough to keep his defender off balance enough to execute the offense. Perhaps most important to his potential NBA future, McConnell ran the pick-and-roll extensively in head coach Randy Bennett's scheme.

According to Synergy Sports Technology's data, McConnell had 283 possessions this past season in which he ran the pick-and-roll and either he or the roll man scored in over half of those instances. That statistic might not stand out upon first reading it, but his pick-and-roll efficiency ranked at the top of NCAA players with at least 100 possessions -- and he had 283!

Not surprisingly, the high-IQ guard has already picked up on that being his strength at the next level.

"My shooting ability is definitely one of my strengths. I have confidence in my shot from anywhere," McConnell said in an interview with Ed Isaacson of the NBA Draft Blog. "But as it relates to the NBA, my ability to run the pick and roll, knowing how to use it, is definitely a strength. We ran it a lot at St. Mary's, so I am used to using it."

Since McConnell mentioned it, and since most observers are probably more familiar with that facet of his game, his shooting ability is definitely a check mark on the positive side of the checklist.  Not only are his percentages excellent as he shot 55 percent from inside the arc, 45 percent from outside of the arc and 88 percent from the free-throw line to register a 67 percent true-shooting percentage, but the way he made those shots is equally impressive.

McConnell's shot isn't prototypical as he gets very little lift, almost like a set-shot, but its nonetheless effective and extremely consistent. To wit: McConnell made 51 of his 100 attempted jumpers off of the dribble -- the top percentage of anyone that shot more than 35 --  according to Synergy. Considering that shooting off of the dribble is much more difficult compared to catch-and-shoot jumpers, this makes McConnell all the more appealing when factoring in how often he'll be counted on to handle the ball when he's in the game.

The other part of McConnell's offensive game, not unlike the slicing and dicing Barea did during the NBA Finals, is the fearlessness with which he takes the ball to the basket when not testing his range outside of the three-point arc. This isn't easily describable, however, and since I've already written over 1,000 words on the matter, let's go to the highlights!

Sure it's just a mix of highlights, but the kid doesn't look half bad, eh?

Since his career as a Gael has ended, the 22-year-old led the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament with 7.7 assists per game at the annual showcase for college seniors. He's also participated in pre-draft workouts with the Phoenix Suns, Houston Rockets, Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Clippers and still has the Sacramento Kings and Golden State Warriors on the docket before next week's draft rolls around.

As of now, it's unlikely that McConnell begins his professional career in the NBA, but that isn't necessarily his fault as only 60 players can be selected in the draft and the pending lockout ruins his chances of impressing during the Summer League a la Matt Janning last year.

 If that's the case, however, there are likely to be a couple of front offices that will be disappointed they didn't take the chance on the next Barea somewhere down the road. For those reading this, and considering the recent success of undrafted players like Barea, Wesley Matthews and Reggie Williams, I hope that front office isn't guiding the team you root for.

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