As an Oakland alum, I freely admit I’m hoping Keith Benson jumps into the first round of the NBA Draft, but most mocks have him going in the early second, so he could be available when the Pistons make their first second round choice.
Measurables: 6-foot-11, 230 pounds, senior C from Oakland
Key stats: 17.9 points, 10.1 rebounds, 3.6 blocks per game while shooting 55 percent from the field
Projected: Second round
How would he help the Pistons?
There are many things to like about Benson, even if you are an unapologetic Oakland fan like I am. The main thing that he’s done over the course of his college career is work his tail off. Benson arrived on campus as a gangly freshman, still working on growing into his length. He wasn’t a particularly highly regarded prospect out of high school. In five years (he redshirted his freshman season), he has turned himself into a legitimate NBA prospect.
Benson would help the Pistons or any team as a shot blocker. He was second in the country in blocked shots. His offensive game has also improved each season, adding more and more tools to his repertoire. This season, he even extended his range out to the 3-point line, shooting a respectable (for a big man) 9-of-23 from deep. If Benson can develop into a rim protecting presence in the NBA, he’s exactly the type of big who would compliment Greg Monroe, since Monroe is not a shot blocker. Benson also runs the floor as well as any big man in the country.
How wouldn’t he help the Pistons?
There are two concerns with Benson. First, he’s still on the light side, listed at only 230 pounds this season. For comparison’s sake, Monroe, who the Pistons have said needs to add some heft, came into the league weighing 250 pounds. Benson, like Purdue’s JaJuan Johnson, would be an unquestioned first round pick if had a little more weight on his frame, but sometimes it’s hard for seven-footers who have always been slim to gain weight.
The second area of concern is the fact that Benson has played in a small conference his entire career. Now, Oakland always plays a tough schedule, and Benson has had some very good games against teams like Kansas, Purdue and Pitt that boasted strong frontcourts, but going from playing a lot of smallish Summit League big men to playing NBA bigs every night will be an adjustment. I’m not saying Benson can’t handle it, it’s just a question that teams and scouts are asking about him pre-draft.
What are others saying?
The biggest challenges the Detroit Country Day product faces in legitimizing his NBA stock and maximizing his potential value is his lack of grit and physical strength. He has exceptional size, great fluidity, good mobility, and a terrific wingspan for a potential NBA big, but lacks the type of lower body strength that would give him the ability to prevent stronger NBA big men from backing him down in the post and the polish to get by on his skill-level alone.
Scouts have wanted to write him off for two seasons, but Benson has been too good to ignore. Oakland has played a number of tough opponents, and Benson has produced. If he can do it on the biggest stage, he could easily move into the first round. There just aren’t many big men in this draft.
“It’s not about numbers in the draft, they want to know if you can win,” (Oakland coach Greg) Kampe said. “He’s bought into that and that’s all he cares about. Our record and where we go and what we do will be a determining factor for him (in the draft).”