Our NBA Draft profile series is back on InsideTheACC, as we preview a number of draft eligible ACC prospects ahead of the 2017 draft on June 26th.
First up in this year’s series is an interesting prospect in Virginia forward Austin Nichols, who only recorded one game played with the Cavaliers this past season.
- Class: Junior
- Age: 23
- Height: 6’9″
- Weight: 235 lbs.
- Points per game: 11.0
- Rebounds per game: 3.0
- Field Goal Percentage: 57.1%
- Minutes per game: 16.0
***Nichols only played in one game during the 2016-17 basketball season for UVa.
As mentioned in the introduction above, this year’s profile series jumps off to an interesting start with the draft preview for Austin Nichols.
This past season for Nichols was his third at the collegiate level, but his first with the Virginia Cavaliers after transferring from Memphis. In his first two years of eligibility with the Tigers, Nichols developed into one of the top players on the Memphis roster with his scoring and rebounding ability. As a true freshman in the 2013-14 season, Nichols averaged 9.3 points and 4.3 rebounds on 58.9% shooting from the floor in 22.8 minutes per game. While making his presence felt on the glass and in the scoring column, Nichols proved to be a capable defender as well. The albatross on the record as a freshman was his 53.6% mark from the free throw line, which was problematic given his efficiency from the field overall.
Moving into his second season, Nichols showed plenty of signs of improvement on what was a high quality freshman year overall. In the 2014-15 campaign, Nichols’ minutes jumped from 22.8 to 29.5 per game, as did his points (from 9.3 to 13.3), as well as his rebounds (4.3 to 6.1). In addition, he took over four more shots per game when he was a sophomore, while still shooting around 50% from the floor and an improved 61% from the free throw line, proving his efficiency offensively with an added workload. Yes the free throw percentage is not very good, but Nichols jumped seven percent while taking nearly 1.5 more free throws per contest.
Admittedly, Nichols still had some holes in his game on the defensive end of the floor, but was not a hindrance on that end given what he was doing offensively for the Tigers, carrying the team at times of scoring droughts throughout the season.
After coming off of another productive season with Memphis, Nichols surprised everyone when he announced his intention to transfer to the University of Virginia. To the initial delight of Tony Bennett, Nichols was expected to be a major cog in the rotation this past season for the Cavaliers. However, after suiting up for only one game for Virginia this past season, a 72-32 victory over St. Francis-Brooklyn in which he posted 11 points and three rebounds, Nichols was dismissed from the program for violation of team rules.
With the dismissal from the team this past fall, there are plenty of character questions now arising for Nichols, whose violations were never revealed. NBA scouts will do their fair share of digging to find the root of the issues with Nichols, but the dismissal draws obvious red flags ahead of the draft process. All of this however, is off the court.
On the court, Nichols is a prospect who possesses good size and a game that was showing continued signs of improvement year over year as he was becoming more seasoned at the collegiate level. If the off-court issues are resolved and a team chooses to take a chance on him, even as an undrafted free agent, Nichols could prove to be a solid developmental piece who could become a rotational player down the line.
For now though, especially with so many questions left unanswered off the court, it is difficult to see Nichols get drafted with his average defense and potential character issues at Virginia coming to the surface. He has enough offensive talent to have a chance taken on him in a training camp deal, but he will need to get himself into more well-rounded form both on and off the court to fully realize his professional potential.
NBA Draft Projection: Undrafted