NBA Draft: Butler’s Shelvin Mack Will Be This Year’s Greivis Vasquez

Since jumping onto the national radar in Butler’s amazing 2010 National Championship run, Shelvin Mack has gone from unexpected surprise to burgeoning star. Last season, many of the accolades associated with the Bulldogs’ success was credited to current Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward and Coach Brad Stevens – and rightly so. But this season, with an even more improbable return to the NCAA title game, Mack made the difference. And along with graduating forward Matt Howard, Mack made the nation once again take notice of the skills that Coach Stevens has so openly coveted.

Now the 6-3 junior guard will attempt to translate his talents to the NBA; announcing this week that he will in fact leave school early to make the jump to the League. Just as Hayward did a year prior by leaving Butler early after almost toppling Duke in the 2010 NCAA Championship, it seems Mack stands to benefit the most by leaving school now. Another year on campus could possibly exploit any further concerns, especially on a team that will already be searching for help with the exit of seniors Howard and Shawn Vanzant. So far, however, the opinions on Mack’s future draft status remain mixed.

DraftExpress has Mack going 41st overall, while NBADraft.net actually has him being selected in the first round at 27th in its new mock draft. ESPN’s Chad Ford ranks Mack as the 45th best overall prospect in the class, and in his breakdown, makes another good point worth noting:

“(Mack’s) been scouted as well as he can be, and his limitations are his limitations. I doubt he dramatically improves his draft stock by returning to school.”

For me, though, Mack is solid. There are not many guys who can pen back-to-back NCAA title games on their resumes and at 22 years old, Mack has about as much experience in the mainstream spotlight as any of the guys in the ACC or Big East. The kid just knows how to win, as evident with Butler’s 61-15 team record over the last two years. This season, the junior guard increased his output across the board with averages of 16.0 points, 4.5 boards and 3.4 assists per game. As a sophomore last year, Mack put up 14.1, 3.7 and 3.0 a game.

Mack won’t wow you with elite-level athleticism or be found floating above the rim much, because that’s not his game. He’s good in the passing lanes, can finish in traffic, and is extremely poised under pressure and in crunch time. Mack’s also a big guard with pro size, but his most confident attribute is most likely his shooting. There is concern about his positioning in the NBA, but he is a cerebral player – the type that if put into the right situation could blossom into a very solid rotation guy.

Watching Memphis rookie Greivis Vasquez go to work last night during the epic Grizzlies-Thunder game, it got me thinking that that could be the same type of impact a player like Mack could make next year. Obviously, Vasquez and Mack have far different strengths and weaknesses, but they both exude a certain solid confidence with the rock in their hands. And just like Vasquez, Mack could make slight but helpful additions to an NBA squad.

While this year’s draft class hasn’t received much praise for being loaded with front-end talent, it is packed with potential gems. And if you can snag a guy with the experience and skill set of Mack somewhere in the late first or early second round, that’s a pretty good pickup.

What do you think about Mack’s NBA future?

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