James "Tahj" Bell is coming off a career year at Villanova. The uber-athletic guard, who over his first three years left fans wondering why he couldn't take the next step, finally stepped in to the spotlight in a senior season that will leave 'Nova Nation remembering him fondly.
His final line of 14.4 ppg/6.1 rpg/1.6 apg represented career bests, while he also posted highs in FG%, 3P% and FT%. Simply put, he ended his Wildcat career on a high note and will be looking to continue that upward trend in the NBA. No draft boards currently project him being selected, but he's been flying all over the country for workouts, making him an extreme darkhorse, and a likely summer league candidate.
Over the course of his career, Bell was the quintessential team player that Jay Wright favors. During the fall of 2010, Bell was diagnosed with a gruesome tibia injury that required metal rods to be inserted in to both of his legs from the knee to the ankle. Many thought this could threaten the high-flying guard's career, but Bell battled back from those injuries to contribute during his freshmen season and steadily improved his production over the course of his career.
A leader by example, Bell wasn't always the most vocal during his time on the Main Line, but there's not denying his work ethic, his desire to improve his game, and the the different ways in which he can impact a game. There are three areas that define James Bell today - his elite athleticism, his ability to guard multiple positions on the defensive end, and his long-range shooting.
Despite those aforementioned stress fractures in his legs, James Bell is still an athletic specemin standing 6'6" and 220 pounds. And the way science is going, who knows, maybe those metal rods have made him even stronger. After all, he spent the past season doing things like this:
And oh yeah, this too:
But that athleticism doesn't just provide #SCTop10 moments - it allows him to be a shut down defender at multiple positions. Bell flourished this season on the defensive end, typically taking the opposition's best players off of their game. Bell was able to stick with guards who like to create their own shot (he forced Andrew Wiggins in to a 3-8, 4 TO performance), or bang down low with athletic forwards. Good NBA franchises value having versatile defenders, and that might be where Bell can find his niche.
The weakest part of Bell's game is his ability to put the ball on the floor and create his own shot - but in the NBA where the 3-point ball has become a valued asset, Bell could provide help there too. His 37% mark suggests more of a gunner than a sniper, but Bell posted multiple games this year at 50% or better while taking a high volume of shots, meaning he can get extremely hot. He'll need to be more consistent if he wants longevity as a pro, but the potential is surely there.
It would be a major shock to see Bell's name called on draft night, but he certainly possesses some important traits that NBA executives seek out of their players. Whether Bell has impressed them enough at his workouts to earn a trial remains to be seen, but any franchise to takes a flyer on Bell might be rewarded in the long run.