The Dallas Mavericks are locked in to the ninth pick in this year’s NBA Draft, and are working out a plethora of different prospects. Dallas however, may have an agenda to acquire some more draft picks before all is said and done. As our Mike Fisher has reported here, one of the guys Dallas has their eyes on for a late-round pick is standout SMU prospect Semi Ojeleye, who exploded on to the scene this past season.
After transferring from Duke, Ojeleye led SMU to an improbable 30-5 record under first-year coach Tim Jankovich, winning both the AAC regular-season and tournament titles, and helping them to finish the regular season as the No. 11-ranked team in the country.
Despite a disappointing early exit from the NCAA tournament, SMU’s star won the AAC Player of the Year, won the AAC tournament MVP, won first-team all AAC honors and was an Honorable Mention AP All-American selection.
At SMU, Ojeleye averaged 18.9 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 1.5 assists, while shooting 48.8 percent from the floor and 42.4 percent from three. He also shot 78.5 percent from the line, doing it all in just over 34 minutes per game. His background? Ojeleye's parents hail from Nigeria (his father is a doctor, his mother a nurse).
At 6-7 and 241 pounds, and with a 40-inch vertical and a 6-10 wingspan, Ojeleye has the strength, length, and athletic ability to defend multiple positions on the defensive end of the floor. He is also tough and explosive with a high basketball IQ, and is a better shooter than a good portion of the SF/PF hybrid guys in this class.
He can absorb contact around the rim on the offensive end, and has the strength to move opponents around under the basket. He has a nose for rebounding the basketball, and can do so in a crowd. Ojeleye also has a strong base with his back to the basket, is good switching on pick-and-rolls, and does well to stay home on shot-fakes.
Where Ojeleye will likely make his impact on the NBA level is as a high-end role-player-type guy. His motor, defensive potential and rebounding ability will be his calling cards, much in the vein of Golden State’s Draymond Green. Though Ojeleye will likely never be as good a distributor or ball-handler as Green, if we’re projecting way up — which is part of the fun of scouting — he could certainly develop those traits, and become very effective in a similar role.
Despite all the praise he received last season, Ojeleye is far from a perfect prospect.
He has been known to be a poor decision-maker at times, and needs to improve his ability to create shots for himself off the dribble. As such, he is a far better shooter, in our opinion, when he is set or coming off of a screen. He has also been known be a ball-stopper, and sometimes finds himself settling for jumpers early in the shot clock.
He tends to rely more on his strength and power when driving to the basket, rather than quickness, which can cause some sloppy runs at the basket. He also struggles to finish well at the rim, and sometimes seems to drive without any real plan once he puts the ball on the floor.
Best Case: Draymond Green (Golden State)
Realistic Case: DeMarre Carroll (Toronto)
Worst Case: Wesley Johnson (L.A. Clippers)
In our opinion, Ojeleye has a good deal of upside if he is put into the right situation at the next level. He’s likely never going to be a guy who NBA teams will build their franchise around, but he will likely be a high-impact type guy in the right system. Expect Ojeleye to come off the board in the late first or early second round, and become one of this draft’s solid steals when we look back on it a few years from now. And as it relates to the Mavs? They know the player without having to investigate him deeply this spring ... and when you scan the Dallas-related visits, you get the sense that the Mavs are open to getting a pick beyond and behind just their existing spot at No. 9.