We get asked/inquired/probed about this more than any other. Why is (insert player name), a very good collegiate player by nearly every measure, not higher on your Big Board? The answer most simply comes down to the changed game in the NBA over the last decade plus that strives for big-play athleticism, length and potential. And Notre Dame's Jack Cooley is not exactly oozing with any of those traits, yet he could and should more than likely be a second-round pick in the 2013 NBA Draft.
A 6'9" senior, has very good strength at nearly 250 pounds, but moreso an incredible motor. His size is not as disappointing as his lack of athleticism (although, he is certainly closer to 6'7" than he is 6'9"). Let's take a closer look at Cooley's game to see if it could translate.
A late-bloomer, not earning quality minutes until mid-way through his junior year, Cooley has burst out onto the scene. He is taking nearly ¾ of his shots at the rim, right where a smart coach like Mike Brey would best utilize his only big man threat. And Cooley is capitalizing, making 70 percent of these attempts by way of getting the ball in excellent positioning, by outworking, outmuscling and outhustling his man in the pain and also, in large part, to his two point guard, Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant, penetrating the lane and getting him the ball with the ability to score.
Cooley has big, soft hands, but is still under the rim athletically, and his stats begin to show his future struggles against the three athletic frontcourts he has faced this season: C.J. Aiken of St. Joe's, BYU's Brandon Davies and Kentucky's Nerlens Noel, Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein. In these two contests, Cooley is still a solid 18-of-36 from the field, but obviously, not as exceptional as he had been; he is shooting 71 percent overall from the floor excluding these three matchups. And what makes scouts sour a little bit more, is aside from BYU's Davies, none of his opponents thus far have been true 4s or 5s in terms of post-up players. What I'm getting at here is that Cooley has been exceptional to date, but has struggled with the lengthy, athletic cut matchup and that will be a pretty consistent theme in the NBA.