Northwestern laid to waste one of the most well known droughts in NCAA basketball history with their first bid to the NCAA Tournament. With Northwestern’s top five scorers returning, The 2017-18 Wildcats will look to continue to end other program droughts. This includes a Big Ten championship (1933) and a player selection to the NBA Draft (1999).
The last Northwestern Wildcat to go in the NBA draft was standout Evan Eschmeyer. The 6’11” bruiser was selected by the New Jersey Nets with the 34th pick in the second round. He played four seasons in the NBA before injuries took a toll on his career. The Wildcats still have not had a first round draft pick in school history.
However, things are looking more encouraging with the current crop of Wildcats. Northwestern will have opportunity to have draft success with some of the players currently on their roster. Let’s take a look at who has the best chance of ending Northwestern’s current drought.
The crafty 6’3” senior is one of the better scorers in the Big Ten. Last season he averaged 14.8 points per game and dished out over five assists. If McIntosh were to make it in the NBA, it would be because of his ability to create with the ball in his hands. Expect another big season for McIntosh as he potentially leads the Wildcats to another NCAA tournament run. Looking deeper into McIntosh’s game and there are warning signs to potential NBA selection.
The first is efficiency. Northwestern uses McIntosh a lot on offense, especially when the shot clock is low and they need a bucket. However, with so many shot attempts, McIntosh’s shot efficiency is low.
He averaged nearly 14 shot attempts last season to score 14 points a game. Overall, he shot 40% from the field and 30% from deep. That won’t cut it in today’s NBA. Further concerns exist athletically and on the defensive end. Right now, it would be surprising to hear McIntosh’s name called next year, but there is still an entire season to be played out.
Law took a nice step last season after an injured shoulder derailed his entire 2015-16 season. The athletic 6’7” wing jumped from seven points a game to 12 in his redshirt sophomore season. He averaged nearly 40% from three-point range and made the Big Ten’s All-Defensive Team.
Law’s length, athleticism, shooting ability and ability to defend all have to be potentially enticing for teams around the NBA. Law is not currently listed in some early 2018 NBA Mock Drafts, but he will be an interesting player to watch entering his junior season.
If he can continue to improve his scoring and consistency while maintaining his excellent defense, Law could start to make some noise in NBA circles. He is one to keep an eye on.
Lindsey, like Law, is an athletic 6’5” wing with some NBA qualities. The senior averaged 14.1 points per game last season, and his per 40 numbers jumped to 18.4 a game. Lindsey was named to the All Big Ten Third Team last season, and was vital in Northwestern’s turnaround. He returns alongside Law and McIntosh as the main scoring options in coach Collins’ offense.
Lindsey needs to improve his shooting and efficiency if he wants NBA looks. Like McIntosh, Lindsey attempted 12 field goals a game last season to average 14 points. He only shot 32% from three-point range on nearly six attempts a game. Currently, Lindsay is not included in any 2018 mocks, but that could change with a monster senior season.
Based on preliminary mock drafts, the Wildcats do not have any players in the 2018 NBA Draft. However, the Wildcats could have a big season this year with their big three all returning. A solid regular season and a return to the NCAA Tournament could allow for some NBA looks. Regardless, based on the improvement in the program, it would seem like just a matter of time before Northwestern can end another drought and push itself to new heights.