With the NBA Draft right around the corner, it is time to breakdown each individual ACC player and take a look at the pros and cons of each prospect. To begin this multi-part series, we take a look at Notre Dame star sharpshooter, Pat Connaughton.
SG/SF Pat Connaughton, Notre Dame
- Age 22
- 6’5″ 215 lbs.
- Wingspan: 6′ 9″
- No-Step Vertical: 37.5″
- Max Vertical: 44″–2nd Highest in NBA Draft Combine history
Connaughton is without a doubt one of the most underrated players in this year’s draft, and proved such at the Combine just a week ago. Many experts dubbed Connaughton as “deceptively athletic,” which was a label he took insultingly and sought out to prove wrong at the Draft workouts in Chicago. The results of his session were nothing short of spectacular, as Connaughton finished first overall in the Standing Vertical at 37.5″, first in the Max Vertical at 44″, which was also the second highest mark in Combine history, tied for first in the lane agility speed drill at 10.74 seconds, fourth in the NBA Shuttle Run at 3.08 seconds, and he tied for first in the 3/4 Court Sprint, with a time of 3.20 seconds.
It really is hard to believe that draft gurus labeled a dual-sport athlete as, “deceptively athletic.” Connaughton was drafted in the 4th round of the 2014 MLB Draft by the Baltimore Orioles as a pitcher, and sports a mid to high 90s fastball that will be a nice fallback option if the basketball track ends up not working out how he’s planned. I like his chances in hoops though, as his career 44.6% shooting from the field and 38% shooting from behind the three point line might be just too good to pass up, especially with a pick late in the draft. One thing to note, is that Connaughton’s field goal percentage improved steadily each year at Notre Dame (42.3%, 44.5%, 45.2%, and 46.6%), and his three point shooting followed a similar arc (34.2%, 37.7%, 37.8%, and 42.3%). He puts a stamp on his plus-shooting profile by shooting nearly 78% from the free throw line, which if anything, will only go up as all of his other percentages have throughout his career at Notre Dame.
Connaughton projects as a shooting guard in the NBA, and standing at a shade over 6’5″ in shoes, his size should not be a problem in the pros. The lone question marks about Pat heading into the draft season was whether or not his ball handling, defense, and athleticism would be good enough to be a consistently good NBA 2-guard.
Due to the fact that Connaughton is simply not an elite level ball handler, he is going to be seen more as a catch and shoot specialist at the next level, similar to how Kyle Korver is used in Atlanta, and Mike Dunleavy is used in Chicago. He isn’t going to be a type of player who is going to be able to create his own shot, but when hit with a pass in an open spot, he is going to make you pay. As for his athleticism and defensive prowess, if the combine workout was not enough for you, take a look at his huge block against Butler this past season in the NCAA Tournament’s Round of 32, which saved a potential game winning three by the Bulldogs’ Kellen Dunham. The Irish would go on to win this game in overtime, and advance to the Sweet 16.
Ultimately, NBA teams are going to have to determine whether or not Connaughton’s inability to create his own shot will be worth the risk of drafting him come June. While he projects as a specialist, I truly believe that he can become a consistent role player in the NBA, one that can contribute sharpshooting to a contender, and high motor plays on both ends of the court. His three point ability makes him a potential second round pick, and if he goes undrafted, there is little doubt that he will be given a chance as an undrafted free agent, where he will once again set out to prove the scouts wrong.
NBA Draft Projection: Mid-to-late Second Round