The Daily Nole

What Happened to Dwayne Bacon’s Draft Stock?

Perrone Ford/FSU athletics

The two best players on Florida State’s basketball team are indisputable. It’s Dwayne Bacon and Jonathan Isaac. They lead the Seminoles in multiple statistical categories and are clearly two of the best athletes on the court in any game they play.

Even now, some debate centers on which one truly is the MVP of the current team. For much of the season it was Dwayne Bacon, largely because of his consistency and experience.

Recently however, that has been called into question.

Sub-par outings against Notre Dame and Pittsburgh (where he scored 0 points) have some fans wondering when the “old Dwayne Bacon” will reappear. Even a win against Clemson only saw him contribute 12 points on 3-for-14 shooting. Most of the damage from Bacon’s 19-point, 6-for-9 shooting effort against Duke on Tuesday night came with the contest well in doubt.

Usually his defensive ability shows through in certain games, but the aforementioned Pittsburgh loss witnessed him getting benched for being totally unhelpful on that end of the floor. But recent games don’t explain what has occurred with Bacon’s draft stock.

Even before his recent struggles, his NBA Draft stock had seemingly dropped out of the first round entirely. Multiple mock drafts in the past months either don’t include him at all, or have him near the tail ends. Yet, they have teammate Jonathan Isaac as a sure fire lottery pick.

Keep in mind, Bacon was around a top 15 projected draft pick in the previous season. He chose to return for various reasons, though we can assume that some of it had to do with him not liking his expected draft position. He came back for the 2016-17 campaign in hopes that he might improve it, but that doesn’t seem to be happening.

So why has Bacon’s draft stack seemingly taken a hit? There are three fairly distinct reasons.

Little to No General Improvement

This encompasses a lot of areas, but the point remains. Has Bacon actually improved all that much from his freshman year? Statistics show a mixed result. He’s scoring slightly more points, albeit with a slightly lower shooting percentage. His 3-point percentage has gone way up from 28 percent to 37 percent, but his rebounding went down from 5.8 per game to 3.8 per game. Other numbers like defensive win shares or assists per game didn’t change much.

From an observational standpoint, it’s clear that his overall game has shifted a bit towards outside shooting. He’s done fairly well in that respect, but that also means his inside presence has declined. There were a few games where Bacon showed willingness to clash on the boards and keep driving on a defense. In those games, he looked fantastic and the team got on a roll. Once teams figured it out however, his new tendencies were not enough to make the same impact.

He may have shifted his style a bit, but that doesn’t mean Bacon actually improved.

Fellow Prospects Have More Potential

The current 2017 draft class is being regarded as one of the deepest in recent memory. There are about three players that all have an argument for first overall, about 10 players who could easily be picked in the top 5, and around 20 players who are lottery-worthy. The overall talent is impressive and any team with multiple selections (like the Portland Trail Blazers) chose a good class to do so.

This negatively affects Bacon in a roundabout way. A deeper draft class with more potential up top has shifted the spotlight away from players like Bacon, who have not significantly improved over the course of the season. Freshman phenoms get the attention and the interest of NBA teams who are ready to see what they can do at the next level.

Bacon still has an NBA future ahead of him. It just so happens that players like UCLA’s Lonzo Ball or Josh Jackson of Kansas have more potential and interest surrounding their skill-set. Even Isaac fits this bill better than Bacon, which explains why he will likely get picked higher.

Questionable Effort

It is easy to misinterpret what one says when they say “questionable effort”. Dwayne Bacon has not given up on the team. He is fully committed to it and is determined to make an NCAA Tournament run. However, in certain games, he is clearly focusing on something else and not being the all-around star that fans known he can be. When he becomes frustrated and the shots stop falling, he zones out and relaxes on defense.

It’s acceptable (though not entirely ideal) to not focus on one aspect of a game if you can make a huge impact in another. One example is James Harden of the Houston Rockets. He isn’t known for his defense, but that’s because he is such an offensive threat that it’s acceptable for him to not give 100 percent on both ends of the court. Unfortunately, that doesn’t apply to Bacon at this point in his career.

Some might not believe that. It is a bit of a hard claim to prove. But ask this question: should a player as talented as Bacon be held scoreless in 20 minutes against Pittsburgh? Should he get pulled because his defense is a liability? Should any of that ever be happening? Probably not.

The reality is that Bacon will almost certainly be picked in the upcoming NBA Draft. He even has a decent chance of sneaking into the end of the first round. He provides an ideal physical build with improved outside shooting and the raw ability to be a starting small forward. For now however, it appears a few concerns will hold him back from being the lottery pick he could have developed into.

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