The 2014-15 season saw UNLV post its worst winning percentage since the 1995-96 season, but that doesn’t mean Dave Rice won’t have something to promote from the 18-15 year. Both Chris Wood and Rashad Vaughn could get taken in the first round of the upcoming NBA Draft.
According to DraftExpress.com’s mock draft, Wood is slotted at 26 to the Spurs and Vaughn is next at 27 to the Lakers. Wood has been projected as a mid-to-late first round choice for a few months now, but Vaughn is the surprise.
The 6-foot-6 guard tore the meniscus in his left knee on February 10 against Fresno State. He missed the rest of the season, which equated to nine games; the Runnin’ Rebels went 4-5 after the injury.
Despite the injury, Vaughn stuck to his plan to head to the NBA after one season at UNLV. In 23 games the freshman averaged 17.8 points on 44 percent shooting including a 39 percent mark from three.
Vaughn is a scorer, who should have the ability to create his own shot right away in the NBA. His release is a bit slow on his jumper, but he gets tremendous elevation prior to releasing that it never became an issue in college.
The Lakers have three picks in the 2015 NBA Draft. Draft Express has Vaughn joining Duke big man Jahlil Okafor (2nd overall pick) and Syracuse’s Rakeem Christmas (34th overall).
At 26, the 6-foot-11 forward would be San Antonio’s first pick in the draft. After an unremarkable freshman campaign, Wood averaged 15.7 points, 10 rebounds and 2.7 blocks as a sophomore. Once Vaughn went down, Wood became the sole focus of opposing defenses. Wood upped his per game average from 15 points with Vaughn to 17.7 without him, but he didn’t sacrifice much efficiency, as his field goal percentage was 50 percent with Vaughn and 49.1 percent without.
His potential ability to shoot is part of what makes Wood an intriguing prospect. He shot 2.7 threes per game at a 28.4 percent mark as a sophomore. However Wood was 33 percent from deep in road games while launching 3.5 per game. He has a good stroke – and shot 74 percent from the free throw line – but he never capitalized with consistency on the three ball.
As far as money, the 2015-16 rookie pay scale has the 26 and 27 spots getting a salary of $991,600 and $963,000 in the first season. The 25th pick is the last slot with one million dollars attached to it. Rookies can sign for anywhere between 80 percent and 120 percent of their pick’s value.
As Wood and Vaughn are projected as first round picks, the question of how UNLV went 18-15 with two top picks has been asked repeatedly. It was a season with forgettable results, but not one without explanation.
Vaughn missed nine games due to an injury. Dantley Walker, who was finally going to get significant playing time with Vaughn out, had a season ending injury in the very next game. Add in the transfer of Kendall Smith early in the season, and UNLV found itself with seven healthy scholarship players.
But those seven players – and the nine that UNLV had for the first half of conference play – should have resulted in more than an 8-10 Mountain West record. Nine of the 10 losses were by single digits, only a road trip to Utah State saw UNLV get blown out. The Runnin’ Rebels lost by a single possession five times, plus had the final shot of regulation in what resulted in a nine-point overtime loss at Boise State.
Simply put, UNLV lost close games and lost them late. At the end of the year, UNLV had a positive points per possession rating in Mountain West games, something difficult to do for a team that lost more conference games than they won.
*Includes Mountain West Tournament games *Numbers from KenPom.com
Both Wyoming and Fresno State finished well behind UNLV in per possession rating despite finishing ahead of UNLV in the conference standings. And in the case of Vaughn and Wood, both players sit as first-round picks due to their offense, which UNLV did not struggle with.
The Rebels finished third in the Mountain West in offensive efficiency behind Boise State and Colorado State.