As Dwayne Bacon prepared to take the court at the Roc Nation Sports Pro Day, the small forward looked around the gym.
The building was packed with NBA general managers and decision-makers including Miami’s Pat Riley, New York’s Phil Jackson, San Antonio’s RC Buford, Utah’s Dennis Lindsey, Boston’s Danny Ainge, Minnesota’s Tom Thibodeau, Los Angeles’ Doc Rivers, Sacramento’s Vlade Divac, Toronto’s Bryan Colangelo, Brooklyn’s Sean Marks, Phoenix’s Ryan McDonough, New Orleans’ Dell Demps, Charlotte’s Rich Cho, Chicago’s Gar Forman, Milwaukee’s Justin Zanik, Denver’s Tim Connelly and Dallas’ Donnie Nelson among others.
Never one to shy away from a big moment, Bacon had a terrific showing at the event and significantly helped his draft stock.
“I feel like I perform best when I’m under pressure; I love pressure,” Bacon told HoopsHype. “Seeing all of the GMs, it didn’t make me nervous at all. I think that’s why I was able to have such a good pro day – because I was myself, I played my game and I did what I had to do. No matter who’s watching or what the moment is, I can block everything out and do what I have to do.
“I showcased everything that I needed to showcase. I really wanted to show that I can shoot the ball, post up, defend at a high level and make plays with my athleticism. I’ve also been able to meet with a lot of different people from around the NBA and I wanted to let them know who I am as a person. I’ve just tried to show teams that I’m the complete package.”
Southeastern University head coach R-Jay Barsh – who has known Bacon for years and helped with the forward’s pre-draft training in his hometown of Lakeland, FL – wasn’t surprised he shined.
“He’s a competitor, so I knew that once he was on this stage, he’d rise to the occasion and thrive,” Coach Barsh said. “Every time he’s been on the big stage, he’s done a terrific job. Whenever someone has doubts about his game, I tell them to go look at how he played when he was on a big stage. He’s always done well.”
Bacon has been on the NBA’s radar for quite some time due to his talent and athleticism. He says that in eighth grade he realized that playing Division I basketball and potentially making it to the NBA were realistic possibilities.
“That’s when I realized that if I kept working hard and improving, I could take this super far,” Bacon said. “I just kept doing what I had to do, kept working.”
He left his hometown of Lakeland to attend the famed Oak Hill Academy, which is known as a breeding ground for future NBA players. Coming out of high school, he was a five-star recruit and one of the top players in the nation. He received scholarship offers from nearly every major program, but said that attending Florida State “was a no-brainer” since he wanted to stay in his home state.
During his two seasons with the Seminoles, Bacon was very productive and helped the basketball program return to prominence. This season, he averaged 17.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and one steal in 28.8 minutes while shooting 45.2 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from three-point range.
A look at Bacon’s analytics show the strides he made as a sophomore, improving his PER (20.8), True Shooting Percentage (54.4 percent), Win Shares (3.8) and Box Plus/Minus (4.3). Also, he managed to decrease his Turnover Percentage (from 12.6 percent to 11.4 percent) despite playing more minutes and posting a higher Usage Percentage (29.4 percent).
“It was amazing,” Bacon said of his time at Florida State. “We hadn’t made the tournament in five years and we were just looking to change the culture. In my first year, we changed it a little bit, but then we were able to change it a lot my sophomore year. This year, we got back into the tournament, we went 18-0 at home, we went 26-9 and finished third in the ACC. We felt like we could’ve done more, but it was still a satisfying season and we definitely feel like we helped change the culture.”
In HoopsHype’s most recent 2017 mock draft (courtesy of Aran Smith), Bacon is projected to go No. 25 overall to the Orlando Magic. Interestingly, Smith has Orlando drafting Bacon and his former Florida State teammate Jonathan Isaac with the sixth overall pick.
Bacon’s stock has been on the rise throughout the pre-draft process. Prior to the Roc Nation Sports Pro Day, he turned heads at the NBA combine in Chicago. He measured in at just over 6-foot-6, with a 6-foot-10 wingspan and 8-foot-7.5 standing reach. His 10-inch hands also stood out, as they were the widest of any small forward this year’s combine. (Wide hands can help a swingman like Bacon on the defensive end and on the glass, as Kawhi Leonard has demonstrated since entering the league.)
At the combine, Bacon also performed very well in the event’s athletic tests. Among the small forwards at the combine, Bacon ranked second in the agility drill (11.7 seconds), second in the sprint drill (3.22 seconds) and third in the max vertical test (36.5 inches).
Bacon has worked out for many teams leading up to the draft and he’s done well in that setting as well. At 21 years old, Bacon is an NBA-ready prospect and that’s been evident in his workouts.
“I definitely feel like I’m ready to make a day-one impact in the NBA,” Bacon said. “I don’t back down from that. That’s one of the reasons why I went back to school this past year, so I could be more prepared. Rather than leaving school after my freshman year and getting picked based on my potential, I wanted to return and prepare more. Now, I feel like I’m NBA-ready. I can give a team whatever they need right now.”
After spending significant time with Bacon and watching his development, Coach Barsh believes that Bacon has the necessary skill set to do well in the NBA.
“Once you show Dwayne something once, he picks it up,” Coach Barsh said. “He has an NBA body. He creates contact and finishes through it. His footwork is really good – it’s come a long way. He can guard three or four positions. He’s very coachable. He responds well to coaching – hard coaching – which I know excites a lot of NBA coaches.”
Bacon can’t wait to be drafted and start working his way up in the league.
“To be honest, it’s amazing to even have my name entered in the draft and be considered,” Bacon said. “I feel like once I hear my name called, it’s going to be really emotional. There’s going to be so much excitement. I can’t wait for that moment. I’m ready for it. I put in a lot of time and hard work to put myself in this position, so I’m going to love that moment because it’ll all have paid off.
“I can’t wait to find out which new city I’ll be calling home and which group of NBA players I’ll be calling my teammates. It’s going to be amazing.”
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