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In the Zone: Phil Pressey and the NBA

I’m not at all surprised Phil Pressey is entering the 2013 NBA Draft. The rumblings I had heard after the Tigers were bounced from the NCAA Tournament in swift fashion indicated such.

And my gut felt the same way.

So, is Pressey making the right decision to forgo his senior season, hire an agent and put his name in the 2013 draft pool? That’s certainly debatable.

Most, including myself, believe that he and the Tiger team would be better served if he came back to Columbia to finish out his collegiate career.

Pressey is certainly a supremely talented player, but his game is littered with significant flaws, mainly his jump shot, decision-making, and defense.

That said, the young man can dribble, run, and pass like few in the world can, and let’s be honest, the NBA game is more suited to Pressey’s style than the buttoned-down basketball we get at the collegiate ranks.

Again I’ll ask: Is Phil Pressey making the right decision by leaving Mizzou early to enter the NBA Draft? Let’s take a look.

1) The first stigma “Flip” will have to overcome is his size. Pressey is listed at 5-foot-11, 175 pounds.

In the past 10 years (drafts from 2003-2012), 598 players have been selected in the NBA draft. How many of those do you think stood less than 6 feet tall?


Already, Phil is facing extremely long odds. Those three players, however, are still playing in the NBA:

Isaiah Thomas, 5’10” 186 lbs, 60th overall pick in 2011 (SAC)
D.J. Augustin, 5’11” 172 lbs, 9th overall pick in 2008 (CHA, now IND)
Nate Robinson, 5’9″ 181 lbs, 21st overall pick in 2005 (PHX, now CHI)

2) OK, that’s decent company. But let’s compare those players to Pressey coming out of college and what type of game they were displaying for NBA scouts to see.

For the sake of perspective, Thomas played three season at Washington, Augustin played two seasons at Texas and Robinson, like Thomas, played three years with the Huskies.

These are the collegiate career numbers of all the players involved in this exercise:

Pressey 9.7 ppg 39.5% FG 34.7% 3-pt FG 75.5% FT 5.9 apg Thomas 16.4 ppg 42.6% FG 32.5% 3-pt FG 71.2% FT 4.0 apg Augustin 16.9 ppg 44.3% FG 40.2% 3-pt FG 80.8% FT 6.2 apg Robinson 14.4 ppg 45.7% FG 34.8% 3-pt FG 79.3% FT 3.2 apg

Immediately, Pressey’s inefficiency scoring the basketball stands out.

Not only did he score five less points per game in his career than his closest peer, but he also did so shooting a far worse percentage from the field. Tiger fans, of course, are well aware of how many shots it takes Phil to get his numbers in the point column.

Pressey’s game is supposed to be dishing the rock, but even there, Augustin had a better career assists-per-game number than Phil (I wanted to look at turnover numbers, but could not find complete totals for all involved so the stat is omitted).

3) How are those three players doing in the NBA? Are they key players on their team? Or do they ride the pine and play mop up minutes? Let’s take a look:

Robinson has easily had the best (and longest) career of the mighty mites. In his seven years in the league he’s won two NBA Slam Dunk contests — which is likely how many of you know the name.

He’s played for five different teams during his time in the league, but been a very effective player at each stop coming off the bench as a key reserve. Currently, he’s filling that role with the Chicago Bulls.

2012-13 12.9 ppg 43.3% FG 39.9% 3-pt FG 78.3% FT 4.4 apg Career 11.5 ppg 42.6% FG 36.2% 3-pt FG 79.6% FT 3.0 apg

4) A crafty left-handed scorer, Isasiah Thomas has just two years of experience with the Kings, but like Robinson has proven to be a pretty good scorer in the NBA given his size.

2012-13 14.0 ppg 44.6% FG 35.5% 3-pt FG 88.3% FT 3.9 apg Career 12.9 ppg 44.7% FG 36.5% 3-pt FG 86.3% FT 4.0 apg

5) Although he was arguably the best of these players in college, Augustin has easily had the most lackluster NBA career.

In fairness, anyone who has had the misfortune of being drafted by Michael Jordan (Charlotte) is usually doomed from jump street. After spending his first four season in NBA purgatory, Augustin now finds himself as a marginal bench player on a much better franchise, the Indiana Pacers.

2012-13 4.8 ppg 35.4% FG 36.2% 3-pt FG 84.4% FT 2.2 apg Career 9.6 ppg 40.1% FG 37.2% 3-pt FG 87.2% FT 4.0 apg

6) The most obvious difference between these players and Pressey, though, is that they are score-first point guards. Pressey is looking to pass unless in his one of his dribble-up-three-with-28-on-the-shot-clock moods.

Can Pressey be an effective NBA player with just his elite passing ability?


Like Colorado State head coach Larry Eustachy did in the NCAA Tournament, any and all NBA coaches will just sag off a player like Pressey and let him build his brick house.

7) That being said, the NBA is a faster brand of basketball with superior athletes running the floor. Pressey’s style certainly fits right in with running the NBA fast break.

Not only that, instead of having a Ryan Rosburg try to catch a behind-the-back pass underneath the rim and lay it in, Pressey would have guys with 37-inch verticals at the worst to finish his passes at the next level.

Pressey is also a little closer to the former Huskies in athleticism than he is Augustin.

We didn’t see it often at Mizzou, but Pressey has a comparable vertical leap to Robinson, the two-time NBA Slam Dunk champion. Athleticism is what allows Robinson and Thomas to slither and contort in the lane and convert shots among much taller and longer players.

They also, obviously, shoot the ball more efficiently from the perimeter.

8) Here’s the bottom line. Pressey will have to break the mold in a big way to have a successful NBA career. Either that or finally develop a new shot mechanic that allows him to get it off quicker and more accurately.

There are no sub-6-foot NBA point guards that shoot less than 40 percent from the field on an NBA roster. None.

I do see, however, one intriguing spot for him to land in the NBA and perhaps develop into a viable option on the roster:


The Nuggets play the fastest brand of basketball in the NBA, bar none, and they don’t like to run half-court offense. I would hazard a guess that Denver shoots the fewest mid-range jumpers of any team in the NBA. Dunk the ball or shoot a three.

They have the most athletic roster in the league, a dream for an up-tempo passer like Pressey. He would set up a lot of dunks using his primary asset: pushing and passing the ball.

Their current backup point guard is a 37-year old, yet still effective, Andre Miller. George Karl is going to need a younger backup to Ty Lawson (another player that is barely six feet tall) sooner rather than later.

Former Missouri Tiger basketball player, Josh Kroenke, the son of Rams owner Stan Kroenke, is the president of the Nuggets. Can’t hurt.

As it stands right now, the Nuggets pick 27th in the first round and 57th overall in the second round. Value sounds right with that second round pick.

This is the type of roster and scheme that could help mask some of Pressey’s biggest deficiencies until he’s able to improve them to the level needed for a long and effective NBA career.

9) I do think Phil Pressey will be selected in the 2013 NBA Draft? I have to believe that because I have a wager with one of my fraternity brothers on the matter.

Pressey, though, won’t hear his name called — if at all — until the second round, most likely in the latter half of that round … after his teammate Alex Oriakhi has been selected.

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