USC Men's Basketball

NBA draft analyst on Chris Silva: Everybody loves his energy and intensity, but ...

South Carolina Gamecocks forward Chris Silva (30) dunks against Mississippi State during a game last season.
South Carolina Gamecocks forward Chris Silva (30) dunks against Mississippi State during a game last season. gmelendez@thestate.com

Pascal Siakam on Tuesday night scored six points and grabbed three rebounds to help the Toronto Raptors beat the Washington Wizards in game two of an Eastern Conference first round playoff series.

Siakam is a 6-foot-9, 230-pound power forward in his second NBA season. In spring 2016, the then-sophomore at New Mexico State declared for the draft, taking advantage of a new rule that allowed college players to test the professional waters before deciding on the next step in their career.

“He was probably projected as a second round pick,” ESPN draft analyst Jonathan Givony said, “and then goes into the combine, performs really well and ends up earning a spot in the last first round.”

Chris Silva, a 6-9, 223-pound power forward who recently finished his junior season at South Carolina, announced Tuesday that he’s putting his name in the draft. He doesn’t plan on hiring an agent, allowing him the chance to return to USC.

Silva’s name is not popping up on mock drafts, but Givony said the reigning SEC co-defensive player of the year has a comp.

“He’s not entering the draft with the same kind of momentum,” Givony said, “but I would maybe point to a guy like Pascal Siakam, who was kind of testing the waters out of New Mexico State. He had a similar type of game to Silva.”

Siakam averaged 20.3 points and 11.6 rebounds in 2015-16, taking Western Athletic Conference player of the year honors. He eventually signed with an agent and was taken 27th overall by Toronto.

South Carolina forward Chris Silva evaluates his play during 2017-18 season.

Silva has until May 30 to get a feel for his stock. A combine invite (handed out April 27), combine participation (May 16-20 in Chicago) and NBA team workouts could come between now and then.

“(Siakam) is just one example of someone in that mold, someone who can help himself with his sheer energy,” Givony said. “Now, I can also point to 100 guys who were just like that and the same thing didn’t happen for them.

“I just think people are going to point to his size a little bit. (Silva’s) kind of like a center and he’s not the same size as most centers in today’s NBA. So what does he really bring up to make up for that?”

Silva averaged a team-high 14.3 points, 8 rebounds and 1.4 blocks for USC last season. He led the country in free throw rate and finished second nationally in fouls drawn per 40 minutes.

He also led the Gamecocks in turnovers (87) and fouled out of five games. He’s attempted 13 3-pointers in his career, connecting on five of them.

“I think everybody loves his energy and his intensity level,” Givony said. “Any time you’re a guy that plays as hard as he does, that’s impressive.

“But I don’t know if he’s really shown what separates him at this stage. You’re watching the NBA playoffs and there really isn’t much of market these days for big guys who aren’t really good passers or outside shooters. You have to have something that really separates you in today’s NBA and I’m not really sure he’s shown what it is yet, besides his just his sheer energy and toughness and intensity.”

Silva is joined by freshman Brian Bowen as Carolina underclassmen who are going through the draft process without hiring an agent.

P.J. Dozier left the Gamecocks after his sophomore season in 2017. He went undrafted and spent the majority of this season playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder’s G League affiliate.

“If the draft were tonight,” Givony said Wednesday, “I think (Silva) would go undrafted.”

Givony listed a series of players who benefited from going through the draft process and returning to school, including 2017 first round selections Justin Jackson of North Carolina and Caleb Swanigan of Purdue.

"With the opportunity to declare," Carolina coach Frank Martin said, "he will be able to gather more information and get a feel for what the NBA’s opinions of him are. We are excited for Chris and that the rules allow him the opportunity to test the waters.”

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