When Iowa State forward Royce White declared his intent to enter this year's draft, Jeff Goodman of CBS Sports reported that several NBA executives believed the sophomore had worked himself into the first round. White's strong showing in the NCAA tournament included averages of 19 points and 11 rebounds per game against UConn and Kentucky.
There's no question that the 6'8" forward has first-round talent. ESPN.com's Chad Ford ranks White 20th overall among this year's prospects, while DraftExpress.com has him at 25th. White's versatility is his biggest strength — in addition to averaging nearly 10 boards a game at Iowa State and potentially having the size to play power forward (he's listed between 240 and 270 lbs), the 21-year-old also has the ability to bring the ball up the floor, occasionally acting as a point forward.
While Ford praises White's LeBron James-esque ability to handle the ball, shoot the three, post up, and rebound, he notes that White lacks LeBron's athletic ability. DraftExpress' scouting report also suggests that the Cyclone appears to be a little overweight, though it hasn't seemed to hamper his mobility so far.
His on-court ability would likely make White a mid-to-late first-round pick, but NBA teams will have a couple complications to consider when it comes to White's whole package. For one, White was forced to sit out his freshman year at Minnesota due to legal troubles, raising red flags about his off-court behavior.
More compellingly, White suffers from an anxiety disorder that includes a fear of flying, as Scott Howard-Cooper chronicled in a piece for NBA.com this week. Although White says his panic attacks are less frequent these days, one such attack resulted in him deciding to transfer to Iowa State rather than Kentucky, since the thought of flying to Lexington caused him to call off his decision to become a Wildcat.
While White may not have the lottery appeal that other high-risk, high-reward players like Andre Drummond or Perry Jones III do, he could certainly turn out to be a tremendous value this June. If concerns about his mental status outweigh the appeals of his physical talent, White could slip out of the first round and into the second.
"I think some teams will be discouraged by it," one NBA GM told Howard-Cooper, referring to White's anxiety disorder. "It's kind of one of those things that's almost like a guy that's had a bunch of off-court issues. Does the talent level trump the other issues you're going to have to deal with? I think Royce is a great player, but I'm not sure that the talent level is going to trump some of the other issues. I think some teams will take a pass in that range. I can see him in the second round at the end of the day."
Players have certainly had their NBA careers derailed by less significant issues than White's anxiety disorder, but it wouldn't surprise me to see the 21-year-old find a way to work through his fear of flying and everything else to become a legit NBA contributor.
White is a good bet to be drafted by either a playoff team or a non-playoff team making its second pick, which should reduce the pressure he'll face when he enters the Association. If everything goes right, I can see the Iowa State product developing into a Boris Diaw-like player who can be slotted in at a number of different positions and will fill up a stat sheet with more than just points and rebounds.