Welcome back to LWOS NBA Draft Coverage, the column that brings you player profiles for the next crop of professional basketball players that are likely to be selected in the upcoming draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow us on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical profiles and scouting reports. Click here to check out our complete coverage of the 2016 NBA Draft. Last Word On Sports is your new headquarters for all things 2016 NBA Draft!
If you’re not that familiar with Jarrod Uthoff, you might remember when he was at the center of a story that caught the attention of the sports media a few years back. After becoming “Mr. Basketball” in the state of Iowa in 2011, the Cedar Rapids product committed to the University of Wisconsin, where he accepted a redshirt designation his first year. When the season concluded, Uthoff decided to transfer, and it was assumed the University of Iowa was at the top of his list of school to continue his career. However, then-Badgers coach Bo Ryan put limits on where he could (or could not) transfer. Iowa was one of the schools on the restricted list. After considerable backlash, Wisconsin lifted the ban, clearing the way for Uthoff to become a member of the Hawkeyes.
Jarrod Uthoff NBA Draft Profile – 6’9” Small Forward/Power Forward, University of Iowa, 23 Years Old
While redshirting at Wisconsin, he was seen as a next-in-line type player that would continue the Badgers’ lineage of versatile big men. At the time, Wisconsin saw the making of a fantastic future front-court that would boast of Frank Kaminsky and Jarrod Uthoff, along with the core of Badgers that led them to back-to-back Final Fours. Though it never came to fruition, it would have created a “twin towers” situation featuring two players 6’9 or taller who could both score inside and from deep, as well as the luxury of having two mobile bigs who could sufficiently protect the rim on defense. Uthoff didn’t experience the level of success once-teammate Kaminsky did, but their games are similar.
In the age of one-and-dones, Uthoff is in a bit of a curious case. Because of his redshirt and NCAA transfer rules, he spent five seasons playing college basketball but only has three years of on-court play to show for it.
Uthoff was named to the Second Team All-American squad. He led the Big Ten in field goals made (as well as field goals attempted) and points scored for the 2015-2016 season. Overall, he had a very respectable year. He finished with 18.9 points per game to go with 6.3 rebounds, 2.5 blocks, and 1 steal. He shot 48% from the floor, 38% from three, and 81% from the free throw line, each marking an improvement over previous seasons. His overall polish and shooting from outside will prove to be his calling card if he succeeds in the NBA.
If he came into the draft a few years ago, Uthoff might have gotten the dreaded label of “tweener.” He is not quite quick enough to play a true small forward, nor is he strong enough to battle with traditional power forwards. However, that’s less of a concern now, because the infusion of small-ball makes it easier to project him as a stretch-four. However, those who question his speed and strength still linger.
Equally concerning for NBA teams would be Uthoff’s propensity to disappear at time during games. His skill-set contains everything a coach could ask for, but he seldom took over games or even stretches of games. This is evident in that Uthoff had just six games in college in which he scored twenty-fjive points or more. If he can’t find his niche offensively on the next level, playing time could become a scarcity. Defensively, he’s shown the ability to protect the rim that NBA teams covet, but against better competition, there’s reason to be skeptical if this will be a pro or con going forward.
In terms of raw production, Uthoff’s numbers were very good, and he deserved the accolades he received. But the Big Ten was a top-heavy conference, and much of his production was bolstered by big performances against the bottom-half teams. Uthoff’s up-and-down season is symbolic of Iowa’s year as a whole. At one point, they were ranked third in the nation, but they finished the season going 3-7, including the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments.
In his last season at Iowa, Uthoff was given the reigns to the offense, but he proved to be frustratingly inconsistent, his game too boom-or-bust. His draftability will largely depend on how NBA teams weigh his good with the bad. If consistent, he could be a useful rotation player that the NBA’s space-and-pace teams crave. And his success at the next level will equally depend on how adequate he can be on defense. If he can step out to defend pick-and-rolls, and offer something in the way of rim protection, he will be a major steal. If not, his ceiling is lowered quite dramatically. His ability to block shots may or may not carry over, and he could become a defensive liability. Either way, he’ll need to add strength and bulk up. Unless he takes an unprecedented leap forward as an athlete, he’s going to have to make his bones as a shooter.
Being drafted in the first round appears to be a bit ambitious for Uthoff (though not entirely out of the question). His ceiling in the NBA projects as a useful bench player who can offer scoring and adequate defense for a team’s second unit. Teams looking for a stretch-four might instead opt for a player with more upside, though. Going undrafted isn’t out of the question, but that might actually be a blessing in disguise. That would allow Uthoff to field offers and pick his team, rather than being forced into a bad situation. Wherever he ends up, his NBA career will probably start like his college career in that he’ll be given a year where he doesn’t play much (or at all) to ease into the transition of playing at a higher level. A stint in the D-League might also be in his future, which again, might not seem all that thrilling, but could do him a world of good. It would be a great opportunity to keep playing in meaningful games and work on his game. He has an NBA game, but it just might take a little more time.