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Top one-tool prospects

6/21/2013

It's likely that, if you are a basketball fan, you followed the NBA Finals closely. And while the focus was on LeBron James and Tim Duncan, there were role players like Danny Green, Tiago Splitter and Mike Miller who made huge contributions.

When an NBA team is building its roster for the long haul of a season, it is critical to find those role players who can do at least one thing extraordinarily well, like shooting, rebounding, defending or quarterbacking a team, even off the bench for a quarter. These are the players that complement a team's stars and can play off their strengths as well.

In this draft, there are players who I call "one tool" guys who have one great skill that will help them make an NBA team next season and, potentially, help them contribute to that team's success.

Here are six guys who have one great "tool" that makes them intriguing to NBA teams selecting in next week's draft. It may not put them in position to be first-round picks, but as the 46th pick in the 2009 NBA draft, Danny Green has proven, that's not important in getting them on the court.

1. Reggie Bullock, North Carolina

Tool: Outside Shooting

Outside shooting in the NBA stretches a defense, and that threat allows penetration by guards and room inside for a big man to operate in space. Bullock has a number of attributes that make him an ideal NBA role player, but the most important is his ability to knock down shots with his feet set to open up the floor for his teammates.

Bullock made over 43 percent of his 3-point shots on almost six attempts a game this past season for the Tar Heels. That ability makes him a commodity even if he ends up in the second round. And, as an offensive bonus, he is a very good ball mover with good passing instincts, and he plays unselfishly. Overall, he was the 11th most efficient offensive player in the country, according to kenpom.com.

As an extra added benefit, at 6-foot-7 with a 6-10 wingspan and an above-average motor, Bullock could be a very good defender as well. But, it will be his ability to shoot the basketball that will open the door to the NBA for him.

2. Carrick Felix, Arizona State

Tool: Defense

At 6-7, Felix has good wing size and, armed with a high basketball I.Q., excellent energy and good athleticism. He has an opportunity to turn himself into a defensive stopper off the bench for an NBA team. At Arizona State, he was a great loose ball retriever and rebounder.

He won't hurt a team on the offensive end if he can make corner 3-point shots off penetration. The potential is there, as he made 38 percent of his shots from behind the arc. In addition, he made 57 percent of his 2-point attempts, as well. Ultimately, though, Felix's hustle on the defensive end is the biggest reason he will make a roster.

3. Pierre Jackson, Baylor

Tool: Speed

At 5-10, Jackson is obviously undersized but based, in part, on the way Nate Robinson bailed out the Chicago Bulls in the playoffs, there's room for a player that is as fast with the ball as any point guard in this draft.

In his two years at Baylor, Jackson tortured opposing defenses with his speed and ability to score and pass with equal acuity. Averaging 20 points and seven assists a game, he was the first player in a major conference to lead it in both assists and scoring since Jason Terry did it for Arizona in the late '90s.

Jackson is like a dangerous punt returner. Off the bench, he can be a game breaker with his great speed. And, surrounded by scoring weapons in the NBA, that speed and his ability to find the open man will make the game easier for his teammates.

4. Ryan Kelly, Duke

Tool: Shooting

Kelly has been "hiding in plain sight" at Duke, playing with some very talented teammates over four years. But he could wind up being a nice surprise next fall when NBA teams formulate their rosters.

At 6-11 and with his proven ability to shoot the ball from deep, Kelly is an ideal "stretch power forward" player. In his last two seasons at Duke, Kelly made over 40 percent of his shots behind the arc. Like the Spurs' Matt Bonner and the Knicks' Steve Novak, Kelly has a weapon that creates great spacing for an offense.

5. Trevor Mbakwe, Minnesota

Tool: Rebounding

Three schools, numerous injuries and an up-and-down career later, the Gophers' Mbakwe is ready for the NBA. And at 6-8, 240 pounds with a 7-4 wingspan, he has the physical stature to make an NBA team even with a limited offensive arsenal. In fact, he only attempted six shots a game this year. That's not a problem, because his main route to the league will be via his rebounding .

Mbakwe averaged almost nine rebounds a game this past season, and his 16 percent offensive rebounding rate was 12th in the country. In addition, he had 17 double-figure rebound games.

If the conventional wisdom that rebounding ability transfers from college to the NBA is correct, Mbakwe is in a good position right now.

6. Matthew Dellavedova, Saint Mary's

Tool: Passing

Dellavedova is a below-average NBA-level athlete. That will be exploited, especially at the defensive end of the court. But, if his acute passing skills can make up for that lack of speed and quickness, he has an opportunity to make an NBA roster.

The main advantage that Dellavedova enjoys is that the league is heavily influenced by screen-and-roll offense. Few in college basketball these past four years were better at running it or ran it as much as the former Gael. Also in his favor: He has already played the point position for Australia's national team in international competition against NBA players and in pressure situations.

A point guard will see as many as 10 screen-and-roll defensive coverages on a regular basis during an NBA season, and he must have a "solution" to each one. Dellavedova's experience puts him way ahead of the curve of the average rookie in that regard.