Mike Gesell was a big part of the Iowa Hawkeyes success in 2015-'16. He was the team's floor general, a very capable defender and one of the team's biggest leaders. While the Hawkeyes faded down the stretch and bowed out in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, it was an overall good season for the team and Gesell's play was one of the highlights.
But after starting at point guard for four seasons, Gesell will be graduating. While his departure leaves a big void in the Hawkeyes lineup, it also raises questions about the senior's future. Can he play in the NBA? Or will he have to go overseas if he wants to play professional basketball? Let's take a look.
Gesell is a classic, pass-first point guard who knows how to find open teammates. He did a terrific job of that this season, and as a result finished his campaign averaging a career-high 6.2 assists. His ability to run the Hawkeye's half-court offense helped Jarrod Uthoff and Peter Jok have very successful seasons as well.
While he doesn't have great size (6'2", 190 pounds), he's not small and was a very good defender at the college level. It's questionable whether he can guard NBA point guards, but Gesell is a hard-worker who won't dog it in that end of the court. Offensively, he showed the increased ability of being able to get the basket this season. He still isn't a great scorer (8.1 points per game) but he did increase his scoring output this season.
Basically, Gesell's biggest strength is his passing ability. If an NBA team is going to notice him, that will likely be why.
First and foremost, Gesell still hasn't proved he has the offensive ability to play at the next level. Yes, he improved as a senior, but NBA point guards need to score and Gesell never averaged double digit points in his four years at Iowa. And after averaging 8.7 as a freshman, he never reached that number again. His 39.5 career shooting percentage won't do him any favors, along with the fact that he's never been much of a 3-point shooter. As for free throw shooting, Gesell is solid (74 percent this past season) in that area but still isn't lights out and doesn't get to the line as much as you'd like for an NBA prospect. Passing is still an important trait, but it isn't everything, especially in the NBA.
In general, Gesell doesn't seem to have the athleticism to play in the NBA. Most point guards will be either too quick for him to guard, too big for him to handle or both. And it's hard to imagine him getting to rim or getting his shot off consistently against NBA defense.
T.J. McConnell's ability to stick with the (historically bad) 76ers this season gives credence to the thought that players like Gesell can make it in the NBA. Still, it would be a big surprise is the Iowa point guard was drafted. Maybe he can turn some heads in summer league or in the D-League, but Gesell will likely have to go overseas if he wants to play professionally.