As the Golden State Warriors proved in winning their first championship in 40 years, the NBA is shifting towards a guard-heavy, pass-and-shoot, perimeter-oriented league.
Measuring in at six-foot-three and 190 lb., the Warriors’ best player and this year’s MVP Stephen Curry isn’t exactly your model NBA player. But it doesn’t matter because he has the best shot in the game, not to mention outstanding vision and a wicked handle.
So then, given the success Curry’s had in the NBA, surely teams must be looking for deadeye point guards with a good handle and killer vision, right?
Take a quick glance at the top of this year’s crop of draft-eligible ones and you see players with the usual attributes: crazy athleticism, lightning quickness and jump shots that are still a work-in-progress.
However, there is one point-guard prospect who is a deadeye shooter, does know how to make the right pass and has a strong handle, and yet is being completely overlooked by just about every talent evaluator: Gonzaga senior guard Kevin Pangos.
Despite getting pre-draft workout invites from the likes of the Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers, Portland Trail Blazers and others, Pangos isn’t listed on many mock drafts, and it really feels as if the 22-year-old Canadian won’t get the shot at the NBA he probably deserves.
So why is this?
“Today’s culture now in the NBA is based a lot off of potential and they go for the younger guy that they see a future for,” former Toronto Raptor Alvin Williams said over the phone. “If you’re a senior in college, it’s looked upon as a negative now because that means you weren’t good enough to leave earlier.”
Williams played 10 seasons in the NBA and spent the majority of his career with the Raptors. He was drafted in the second round, 47th overall, by the Portland Trail Blazers in 1997 after having spent four years at Villanova.
The 40-year-old, who spent three years as the Raptors’ director of player development from 2010–2013, doesn’t necessarily agree with the trend of just drafting potential. He believes a player like Pangos has a lot to offer to an NBA team specifically because of his seasoning.
“What [Pangos] would bring to a team is maturity, and he brings a calmness, he brings an ability to shoot the basketball from the outside,” Williams said. “So he brings something that a young kid don’t have yet. So it’s all about what a team needs.
“Unfortunately today, if you’re a senior in college, you’re looked down upon as someone who can’t actually play. A lot of teams are gonna miss out on kids like Kevin Pangos.”
Hailing from Holland Landing, Ont., Pangos finished a fabulous collegiate career as Gonzaga’s all-time leader in games played (142) and three-point makes (322), and during his four years as a Bulldog he showed a strong ability to adapt to any given situation.
For example, during his freshman and junior seasons, the Zags didn’t have an assertive big man, forcing Pangos to shoot the ball more and score more, but in his sophomore and senior years, Pangos didn’t have to carry as heavy a load because of the ascendance of Canadian big men Kelly Olynyk and Kyle Wiltjer.
This kind of unselfishness and basketball IQ is something that takes time for young point guards to develop, but Pangos has it naturally.
Pangos has also demonstrated the most important NBA point-guard skill to incredible effect: running the pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop. This past season especially Pangos consistently made it look easy, dropping the ball off to WIltjer at the exact right moment or pulling up and drilling threes if his defender was foolish enough to go underneath.
The results? Career-best shooting marks of 44.9 percent from the field and 43.1 percent from deep alongside a career-high 4.8 assists per game. He also helped Wiltjer to 16.8 points per game on 54-percent shooting, and his team to an NCAA-best shooting percentage of 52.4 percent.
That level of orchestration is no fluke and should be considered tangible proof why he is an NBA-worthy prospect.
Over the course of the past 10 seasons (lockout-shortened 2011–12 notwithstanding), there has been a definite upward trend in three pointers both taken and made. This trend was ultimately realized with Curry being named MVP and his three-happy Warriors being crowned champion this season.
You’d think all that would have opened the floodgates to someone like Pangos, but it hasn’t… yet.
While it may be a long shot, it’s still possible Pangos could turn one of those workout invites into a draft spot. And if his name is spoken on Thursday, you can be sure the team that picks him will get a good return on its investment.
“I’m sure if you put someone like Kevin in a situation with an established team, a good team, [he’s] gonna help that team continue winning and continue that tradition,” Williams said.