Evaluating Isaiah Roby's NBA Draft Stock
Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Evaluating Isaiah Roby’s NBA Draft Stock

April 09, 2019

On Friday afternoon, junior forward Isaiah Roby made it social media official: he has entered his name into the 2019 NBA Draft pool but will not hire an agent.

That opens the door for a return to Lincoln if Roby doesn’t get the kind of feedback he’s looking for during the pre-draft process. But what kind of feedback can he expect? What does his stock look like in the eyes of NBA scouts and those that cover the draft?

I reached out to The Athletic’s NBA Draft writer Sam Vecenie to find out what he’s heard from coaches, general managers and scouts about Roby as well as to learn his own opinion of Roby as a player.

Vecenie has Roby at 61 in his latest Big Board featuring his top 100 prospects, sandwiched between fellow Big Ten prospects Jordan Poole and Charles Matthews, both from Michigan.

“I am admittedly probably a bit over on him than most other internet big boards that you see,” Vecenie said. “I understand the appeal with him. I understand why people would be willing to take the plunge with him and select him and use an asset on him and try to develop him. He’s 6-8, 6-9, somewhere in that range, all sorts of athleticism and length, his defensive ability in terms of being able to switch on the perimeter athletically is very high-level for a player that size. I just worry about some of the skill level stuff in addition to some of the frame stuff.”

Roby had a rough freshman season but broke out somewhat as a sophomore, emerging as a dynamic two-way impact player for a 22-win Husker team. Many, myself included, expected him to make a big leap as a junior.

He did not. Roby’s minutes increased which boosted his raw stats, but his per-minute production didn’t really change all that much and his efficiency dropped. At times, Roby showed off his whole arsenal of skills and put up some big performances, finishing with 20 or more points five times including a career-high of 28 in the first round of the NIT against Butler. 

However, he continued to struggle with foul trouble at times, fouling out five times and recording four fouls in another 11 games. At 6-foot-8, he shot 50 percent from the field or better 13 times this season. He also shot 40 percent or worse 19 times. His shooting percentages dropped across the board.

“He is one of those guys that is just maddeningly inconsistent,” Vecenie said. “You never really know what you’re going to get on a night-in, night-out basis with him, in my opinion, which is something that a lot of players, as they’re improving their skill set and particularly that a lot of players that are still as skinny as he is and still developing his body like he is go through because they can just get pushed around in a way that more developed players can’t. The feel stuff is the stuff that does worry me a little bit in terms of is it ever going to come along in a substantial way?”

Roby had problems finishing around the basket with any sort of contact this year after showing improvement in that area as a sophomore. He also struggled to make good decisions in the flow of the game, often turning down open looks from the perimeter to drive into the heart of the defense. He improved his turnover rate slightly, but he still had too many frustrating giveaways. 

Still, even with the inconsistencies Roby offers a lot that would appeal to NBA decision-makers. His size, length, athleticism and potential skill set (with some polishing) is a perfect fit for today’s NBA.

“I just kind of think that NBA teams will just about always take a chance on a guy like that, even in the G-League,” Vecenie said. “I think that if he entered the draft, he would have a very real chance to get drafted and if he entered the draft he would have a very real chance to get signed, even if he gets down to the second round and it’s pick 45 and he gets offered the ability to be selected and he turns it down, he’s someone that I think NBA teams will want to take a look at. They’re going to bring him in for camp. At the very least, we’re talking about a guy that’s going to be an Exhibit 10 player, which means he’s going to get 50-grand to come to camp and then he’s going to make a G-League salary, so something like $35,000 next year. So 85-grand all told, that might look pretty interesting for Isaiah Roby.”

Roby spoke to the media after Fred Hoiberg’s introductory press conference last week and said that if he gets a good indication that he’ll be drafted, it would be hard to turn that opportunity down. He just said “drafted,” not “drafted in the first round” or anything like that. It seems like Roby is headed into this process with the intention to stay in the draft so long as he gets the feedback he needs to hear. 

“I wouldn’t begrudge him,” Vecenie sad. “His coach just left. Maybe he believes he’ll develop better in the NBA or in the G-League, particularly. I think that he has very real tangible options. I wouldn’t begrudge an NBA team for looking at his situation and going we have a kid here that is 6-foot-9. If we can work on his body, if we can work on his jump shot particularly and just have him rep out jump shots constantly, I really think there’s a lot of value there for an NBA team to look at and say ‘Hey, let’s get him in our G-League program and see where it goes.’”

Is Roby simply ready to get his professional career started, regardless of what that might look like? Based on Vecenie’s feedback, he shouldn’t have to worry about heading overseas to find a job. But is he ready to grind in the G-League? Or is he looking for a real NBA deal? The latter may or may not be an option in year one.

“He’s a project at the end of the day,” Vecenie said. “Is he a project worth investing in on an NBA level to where I would give him a guaranteed contract next season? Honestly, I don’t know that I would, personally. I would probably wait for him to be able to be in the G-League. He could very easily be a two-way guy for a team. That would make a lot of sense to me, actually even more so than an Exhibit 10 is get him on a two-way contract and see if you can develop him over the course of the year. But a fully guaranteed $800,000 deal? I just don't know if I can do that if I was a GM.”

The other path Roby has available to him is a return to school. Stay locked in to Hail Varsity for more on the decision that awaits Isaiah Roby.

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