By the end of the college season, Wayne Selden, Jr. was considered by most a likely first round pick in the 2014 draft. So he surprised a bit with his decision to return to Kansas for a second year. But a longer look suggests it was probably a wise choice. Though his physical profile appears suited for the pro level right now, Selden, Jr. didn’t do enough in his 1,023 minutes as a freshman to secure that first round status and probably would have been downgraded once teams got caught up to the evaluation process.
It’s important to mention the context. Selden, Jr. was part of a team that had two players that ended up going first and third in the draft, aside from Perry Ellis who is one of the best scorers per minute in college basketball. It’s also relevant to point out that he played in an offense that didn’t provide many opportunities for perimeter players to thrive, as Grantland’s Brett Koremeros detailed in this post. As a result, Selden, Jr. finished just 18.7 percent of Kansas’ possessions with a shot, free throw or turnover.
Part of what makes him an interesting pro prospect is his passing out of the pick-and-roll. The Spurs just won the title by making sure every lineup they used featured multiple players capable of assisting out of dribble penetration. In the Tom Thibodeau Era, offenses need driving-and-kicking and shooting to stretch the hybrid man-zone, and Selden, Jr. could be a commodity that the league is looking for. However, he was only sporadically allowed to flash those pick-and-roll chops throughout the season.
His 3.4 assists per 40 minutes were in large part a result of his ability to enter the ball to the low post very well. Selden, Jr. made high IQ passes every now and again but it’s unclear how polished a playmaker he really is at this point. He turned it over on 17.1 percent of Kansas’ possessions when he was on the floor, which is a really high percentage in the context of his low usage rate.
His role on offense was mostly limited to spacing the floor. According to hoop-math.com, three quarters of his 277 attempts were jump-shots, and among those over half were from three-point range. Selden, Jr. proved himself a capable set shooter but has the tendency of flexing his elbow a bit too much and releasing the ball from the top of his head, which limited his accuracy to just 32.8% on 128 three-point attempts.
Selden, Jr. didn’t really show much speed off the bounce, without an explosive first step to attack closeouts and struggling to get separation when he drove it to the basket, always favoring going left. He took just 68 attempts at the rim in 35 appearances (though finishing them at a 69.1 percent clip) and averaged 3.5 free throws per 40 minutes. It has been reported he played most of last season with an injured left knee, which required offseason surgery and surely must have impacted his explosiveness.
Selden, Jr. was, however, a good pull up jump-shooter if left uncontested, hitting a solid 39.5 percent of his 81 mid-range attempts. He didn’t have a particularly quick trigger but nice balance and elevation led to a high release point. It wasn’t good enough for him to be a significant positive, though. The combination of not scoring at the rim in volume, missing 77.2 percent of his three-pointers and 37 percent of his free throws led to Kansas averaging only 107.1 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, the lowest offensive rating among the team’s eight rotation players and a mark that would have ranked the Jayhawks 121st in the country in offensive efficiency rather than the 20th they did overall.
Despite Wiggins’ presence on the team, Bill Self viewed Selden, Jr. as his pet perimeter defender. He was often asked to defend smaller players but also drew the Marcus Smart assignment when they faced Oklahoma State. Selden, Jr. showed very decent lateral quickness to go over and around screens, but didn’t really manage to use his 223-pound frame to contain dribble penetration through contact. His transition defense was very impressive and his long arms (Selden’s the owner of a 6’10 wingspan) permit him to adequately contest shots, though.
Often guarding on the ball, he wasn’t much of a factor playing the passing lanes to manufacture turnovers, recording only 25 steals all year. Selden, Jr. did look to contribute on the glass but didn’t secure many misses, since Kansas’ big men were pretty much all prolific in that area. He was an aggressive help defender crashing in from the weak side but didn’t really make much of an impact. The Jayhawks allowed about the same scoring on a per-possession basis with or without him on the floor.
Even with Wiggins gone to (likely) Minnesota and Naadir Tharpe leaving the program, Kansas’ wing situation is a bit crowded with Brannen Greene still there and the arrivals of Kelly Oubre and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk. But Selden, Jr. is undoubtedly the top talent of that group. If healthier and perhaps given more freedom to create on the ball, he has potential to rise into lottery status again.