Before the 2019 NBA Draft arrives, Peachtree Hoops will break down more than 70 available prospects with an eye toward what the Atlanta Hawks may look to do in late June.
This installment centers on Purdue-Fort Wayne guard John Konchar.
Once the top prospects are gone and the NBA Draft moves into the second round, diverging philosophies emerge among general managers and their front office staff. Some view second-round picks as a chance to swing for the fences, while others are on the hunt for solid role players who can fill in the back end of a team’s rotation.
The home-run second-rounders are exceedingly rare, but when a team hits on a player like Draymond Green (taken 35th in 2012) or Nikola Jokic (taken 41st in 2014), it can change the trajectory of a franchise for several years. Of course, hitting on a superstar anywhere in the draft can elevate a club to previously unforeseen heights, but finding one so late in the draft process is almost always a precursor to contention. Other teams don’t bother trying to play that lottery, opting to attempt to hit as many singles as possible in the second round and hope a few of those turn out to be rotation players for a title contender down the road.
John Konchar, the 6’5 guard out of Purdue-Fort Wayne, falls firmly in the latter camp. A very productive player in the Summit League throughout his tenure at Purdue-Fort Wayne, his numbers would indicate that he belongs in the discussion for a first-round pick, but limited upside due to age and athleticism will push him further down most teams’ boards. Over the last two years, when he became the Mastodons’ primary creation option, he’s posted fantastic numbers across the board, with his senior season being clearly the best of his collegiate career. 63 percent true shooting on significant volume is nothing to sneeze at, no matter the conference, and Konchar backed that up with strong rebounding and playmaking numbers as well.
The only aspect of his collegiate numbers that is in any way worrying is his free throw shooting, which came in at 71 percent his senior year and averaged out at 70 percent throughout his 133-game career at Purdue-Fort Wayne. He shot well from every area on the court, with strong performances on catch-and-shoot and pull-up jumpers, created at a high level for his teammates, and brought above-average defense to the table for the Mastodons to add to his offensive talent. When he’s off the ball, he’s a smart cutter or he can be a stand-still shooter, though his free throw shooting brings about some caution for his development as an NBA three-point shooter.
In general, NBA three-point shooting is more heavily correlated with collegiate free throw shooting than collegiate three-point shooting. This paints a more dismal picture of Konchar’s ability to space the floor at the next level and it’s not as if he has a significant number of attempts from beyond the NBA line to overlook that concern; during his senior season, he shot just 22 of his 139 three-point attempts from beyond 24 feet. On a positive note, he hit nine of them and looked comfortable doing it. He won’t struggle for the strength or burst to get his shot to the rim from the NBA three-point line – it’ll only be an issue if he’s accurate enough to adequately space the floor.
Across the board, every other part of his game should translate well to the NBA. He can defend both guard positions, rebounds very well for his 6’5 height and 6’7 wingspan, and can play multiple roles offensively, from initiator to floor spacer. Whether he develops into more of a backup point guard or a 3-and-D guard remains to be seen and will likely depend on how much his athleticism holds him back at the point of attack for a team’s offense, but with so much versatility to his game, there should be a spot in an NBA rotation for Konchar.
The downside concerns for Konchar would come if the shot never comes along and the athleticism concerns become more of a problem than projected, but as long as the bottom doesn’t fall out on both of those properties of his game, then he’ll be a fine rotation guy for a long time in the NBA.
Being relatively low-risk would normally push Konchar up draft boards, but his age and lack of perceived upside will likely keep him in the second round of the draft. After redshirting his first year, he’s already 23 and therefore has fewer prime years to give to an NBA team, which matters in terms of projecting a player’s draft stock, even if those age concerns are sometimes overblown, in my opinion.
From a bird’s eye view, Konchar’s do-it-all game on both ends of the floor should be a strong positive for him in the draft process. While truly elite at few things, he projects to have few weaknesses as well, which is in some ways more important for a role player on a contender. As we see every year in the playoffs, the players who are more well-rounded are the ones in postseason rotations, while those who are skewed toward one end of the floor or the other have trouble when April, May, and June roll around. Playoff basketball is a weak-link sport – a team’s weakest player on each end is the most exploitable by their opposition and there is often nowhere to hide a player who can’t defend or doesn’t bring value offensively.
Konchar may never be the second- or even third-best player on the floor for a team, but he won’t have teams going out of their way to exploit him on either end of the court. Come playoff time, that trait is more important than any other for a non-star.