Thursday, March 31, 2011

McDonald All-American Game Thoughts

With the Hoop Summit, Jordan Classic, and National High School Invitation all still waiting to be played, along with a full year of college to evaluate these players, I want to avoid doing scouting reports or making any knee-jerk reactions. Here are just some of my thoughts after watching, reading, and hearing about the players.

PF Anthony Davis (Kentucky) - Wow. Anthony Davis really stole the show for the West team. While he didn't come away with MVP honors, he impressed me more than anyone else. It was great to see him in action against great competition after everything I've read. I was worried that he would be another Perry Jones and hang around the perimeter, but I was pleasantly surprised. He has some guard skills and can start the fastbreak himself, but he kept himself positioned inside and collected 14 points. He needs to get stronger to hold his own in the post and become more of a threat on the boards, but he was just 6'3'' a year and a half ago. He needs time to fill out his frame and also adjust to being a big man. Because of that, he has an incredible upside and it is very impressive how quickly he already has made tremendous strides adapting to his new body and position. His wingspan is also a huge asset and helped him block four shots. The most notable thing he did, though, was when he ended up in the stands going after a loose ball. The kid was everywhere.

PF Kyle Wiltjer (Kentucky) - Wiltjer started off his week right by winning the 3-pt contest. He was reportedly very serious in practice, taking advantage of the great opportunity offered from playing in this event. Working alongside Anthony Davis will provide huge mismatch problems for other teams and I can't wait to see how Coach Cal uses them together. Wiltjer has a great shooting touch and old school post moves - he hit a running hook shot in the game. He finished up with 11 points on 4-10 shooting from the field.

SG Bradley Beal (Florida) - Beal got off to a hot start and had a game-high 17 points (along with McAdoo). He has an excellent stroke from outside that scouts have compared to Ray Allen's. He is not just a shooter, though. He is a great competitor and went right at Austin Rivers who was at one point committed to go to Florida with him. He is a good athlete overall, with a strong frame. He can get into the lane and finish through contact and will be able to play the SG position in the NBA even though he is slightly undersized. Beal's biggest obstacle next year is getting consistent minutes - Florida also has Erving Walker, Kenny Boynton, and Mike Rosario at the guard positions - none of which have a problem hoisting shots. Hopefully Beal gets a chance because I definitely believe he can be as productive as the other guards. Patric Young didn't get any favors this year as an All-American, so we will see how Donovan divvies out playing time.

SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Georgia) - Caldwell-Pope isn't one of the most notable names at the game, but he could be a great fit for the Bulldogs if Travis Leslie and Trey Thompkins return for their senior years. Georgia's offense is designed for 3-pt shooters, and with Leslie, they haven't had a guard that can take advantage. If Caldwell-Pope gets to play next to Leslie, they can form a solid combination. Besides that though, Caldwell-Pope looks like he will be in college for a few years. He is more along the lines of a guy like Corey Stokes or Reggie Bullock who have great size and shooting, but need to work on the rest of their game.

SG Michael Carter-Williams (Syracuse) - I think this guy has a chance to be really good. He won the skills competition and showed off some great ball-handling skills in the process. His scouting report reads similarly to Jeremy Lamb, but the difference is some would question whether Carter-Williams would have the patience to let Kemba do all the work. Carter-Williams has a rep for being selfish and demanding when his inferior teammates have the ball. If he adjusts at Syracuse and allows Jardine, Waiters, and Triche to do their thing, he could be a very dangerous player. If not, he might be on the bench for most of his freshman year.

F/C Rakeem Christmas (Syracuse) - Christmas is another player heading to Syracuse with some questions about his mental makeup. I have been one of his biggest detractors since I saw him play as a freshman. I don't like his body language and he is still very raw. He has gotten by on his elite athleticism and shot blocking skills, but still has no post game to speak of. He only averaged 11 points his senior year of high school and was non-existent in this all-star game. With Fab Melo and Baye Moussa-Keita already in place, he is going to have to earn his playing time. I'm not sure he makes much of an impact his freshman season. Hopefully he matures and uses playing time as motivation.

PG Quinn Cook (Duke) - Assuming Irving leaves, Cook is going to start at point guard next year alongside Austin Rivers. Cook is an undersized guard, but is a great competitor. I saw him play while he was still at DeMatha in his junior year and he had a scorer's mentality. Over the summer, though, he got a chance to lead USA's U17 team and scored 7.5 points to go along with 7.4 assists. I'd like to see more of the playmaking ability at Duke, as he will need to create for the shooters that surround him (Curry, Rivers, and Dawkins). While Cook is clearly not the best point guard prospect in terms of the NBA, he can have a very good college career and eventually land in the league.

SF Michael Gilchrist (Kentucky) - Taking home Co-MVP honors of the all-star game was Mike Gilchrist, who had 16 points, 12 boards, and four assists. His statline is a good representation of his game - Gilchrist does everything on the court to help his team win. He truly is a valuable player and will get a chance to show off his role playing abilities on a stacked Kentucky team. He is the perfect complementary player, being compared to Scottie Pippen, with his work on the glass and defensively. He also has some of the passing ability, but he isn't an elite level athlete. He has minimal downside and should be a lottery pick when he declares.

SG PJ Hairston (North Carolina) -  Hairston had an impressive week in Chicago. He competed in both the dunk and 3-pt contest, showing skill in both areas. In the actual game, he had 15 points including a few deep threes. He is going to be a great 3-pt shooter in college, with a high release. I like him better than Bullock because I see him as a smarter player with better athleticism. He has a stronger body and can finish with a lot of power. He's a sleeper of mine for the first round next year.

PF James McAdoo (North Carolina) - McAdoo made his presence known tonight, finishing with 17 points on 8-13 shooting. Like the box score suggests, he is an efficient player with a great feel for the game. He created opportunities for him self by playing the passing lanes and forcing turnovers. He handles the ball well for a power forward, complete with a solid post game. He needs to add strength so he can get better position, but as Dave Telep said, he is one of the few in this class that can carry a college team sooner rather than later.

C Johnny O'Bryant (LSU) - It was hard not to notice O'Bryant out there. He tried to show off his offensive game, but instead showed raw ability. Like DeMarcus Cousins when he was in high school, O'Bryant doesn't take advantage of his size enough. He focuses on spin moves and making plays off the dribble. While he does have a surprisingly quick first step, he is out of control and out of his element in that situation. I like his energy, but he has to learn to use his body to become a powerful force inside. Right now he uses it poorly and had his shot blocked at least once because of it. He needs to go up strong and finish with dunks - not fadeaways!

Stay tuned tomorrow for thoughts on Plumlee, Scott, Birch, Dawson, Kabongo, Nash, Rivers, Teague, and Zeller.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Other Thoughts on Day 2 of the Elite 8

Day two of the Elite 8 brought us two very different games. The first game was a David vs Goliath matchup in which David actually won. In terms of NBA prospects, there were a few, but the game didn't hold too much extra weight in terms of stock. When June comes around, few will point to performances in that game as gospel. It was merely just another game in a lengthy evaluation process.

The Morris twins didn't show well, especially Markieff but everyone is prone to a bad night. The game served as another example as to why I am worried about the twins, although nothing was a new revelation. The Morris twins have shown time and time again that they will struggle converting buckets inside. Both lack the length and explosiveness to consistently get it done down low. They can hit fadeaway jumpers, but cleaning up the glass can become a tough task for them.

The second game of the night, North Carolina versus Kentucky, had a different feel to it. These teams were both equal in talent and stocked with NBA talent. This was a great chance to evaluate how certain NBA prospects fare against one another.

One matchup I was most interested in seeing was Terrence Jones and John Henson. Unfortunately for both players, Henson got in early foul trouble and Jones failed to capitalize on it. If you have been reading my blog, you know I have had concerns about Jones, and this game lead to others voicing their concerns too.

Jonathan Givony tweeted, "Terrence Jones has become, at best, Kentucky's 6th most important player. Breaking down his film from last 2 months probably won't be pretty. Not sure how much longer Terrence Jones can live off Maui performance. Wasn't considered one & done guy coming in. May need to rethink this."

It always feels good when respected scouts share come around to sharing the view you have expressed an entire year.

With Henson, I wouldn't be too worried about him fouling out. It was the first time in his career he has ever been disqualified. He can be too aggressive defensively, but he has been a huge deterrence in the paint. He has gotten his hand on more in bound passes recently than anyone else I can remember. His wingspan is huge and its not something he will leave behind in college. In the short time they shared the court together, Jones didnt overpower Henson. Henson is stronger than he looks. Ive been impressed with the positioning he has been able to get time and time again. Overall, I think Henson has helped his stock over the tournament if anything. You can comment on his boneheaded plays against Washington, but he is absolutely not a low IQ player. Coming to the conclusion will give you the wrong view on Henson. In fact, one of the most impressive things about Henson is his movement without the basketball on the offensive end. He always gets in great position for a ball handler to deliver him a pass and makes precise cuts to the hoop. Also, you don't grab over ten rebounds a game with a skinny frame if you don't know how to use your body and read where a ball is going.

Harrison Barnes was more aggressive than Ive ever seen him today. He could get his shot whenever he wanted and did just that. Early on, he settled for too many jumpers that he could get at anytime, but the clutch Barnes returned at the end of the game. It was a complete 360 from his performance in December against Kentucky where he only took ten shots. In the elite 8 game, he hoisted 19 shots while still being defended well by Liggins and company.

Speaking of Liggins, Kentucky native and Scout recruiting analyst tweeted that Liggins is the heart and soul of UK's team and added that his defense and toughness is off the charts. Ive always liked Liggins more than Darius Miller and think he could be a great pickup for any NBA team when he declares.

The last guy I will touch on is Tyler Zeller. I'm still having trouble figuring out his NBA future. I predicted in late November that I felt his stock will see a rise into the first round and it seems like it has. Agile, skilled, seven footers who get up and down the court are hard to find. Especially productive ones. Chad Ford says scouts compare him to a poor man's Pau Gasol. I have no problem with that comparison, but that doesn't help me at all. Now I have to figure out what the hell a poor man's Gasol equates too. Just how poor of a Gasol is he? With Gasol's hair and beard, he already looks poor himself.

The Chivalrous [Brandon] Knight

Everyone knew it could happen.

For much of the year, Brandon Knight floated around on draft boards between a mid-late first round pick. Jimmer and Kemba drew the attention as the best PGs in the nation, battling for player of the year. Kyrie Irving basically went out on top by getting off to a hot start and getting injured. Knight meanwhile, struggled early on and has spent the rest of the season trying to improve his game. Combining his slow start with Irving's scorching start, Knight would have to make a huge jump to get his name in the same sentence as his Duke peer.

It just so happens that hardwork is what Brandon Knight is all about. Everyone knew about his strong character and work ethic. Scouts looked at this incredibly talented kid who also pulls straight As, studies game tape, is highly coachable, and basically lives in the gym with glowing eyes. He stayed in the mid-late first round on boards, but everyone agreed that he could be a lottery pick by June. Now, as Kentucky prepares for Kemba Walker's Uconn Huskies, Knight has drawn attention by helping his team to the Final Four. The buzz has gotten louder and louder every passing game. David Thorpe was one of the first to start the hype train, tweeting that he could go #1 by June. That was after Knight poured in 30 points against West Virginia.

Thorpe followed up his bold claim comparing him to MVP frontrunner Derrick Rose. Before then, most were in agreement that Knight was a step below Tyreke, Rose, and Wall. Thorpe backed up his claim by tweeting,

"He's not as explosive an athlete as D Rose, but he's a better scorer, shooter, and passer at that age. Rose has higher upside, not by a lot."

There really isn't an argument to be made there. The Memphis Derrick Rose was a spectacular athlete who used his physical capabilities to get himself to the basket. His upside is higher, but Knight isn't going up against Rose in the draft. Irving is his main competition and his upside isn't regarded as Rose or Wall-esque either.

When looking at Knight's game, there is a lot more at his disposal than what Rose offered to the Tigers.

Knight's main knocks are his point guard skills and average first step. I tweeted earlier today that he is the point guard version of Harrison Barnes. The comparison really makes a lot of sense - both are clutch (Knight has hit two game winning baskets this tournament), smart, have ideal physical tools defensively, possess average first steps, settle for jump shots too often, and have very high character. They both at one point were considered the best player in high school and had a tough transition into the college ranks. Their stocks dropped, but when they met today in the Elite 8, they looked like future stars.

Knight's first step doesnt bother me that much. Its what separates him from Rose, but a guy like Knight can find ways to work around it - he already has made plenty of adjustments. Excuse me while I compare him to two-time MVP winner Steve Nash, but I think there are some good points to be made in doing so.

When Nash came out of college, his first step also was criticized. Like Knight, he was fast, but he needed a few dribbles to get up to speed. Needless to say, as a fellow gym rat, Nash figured out how to get around his perceived short comings. Some guys just have that "it" factor and if you ask scouts, they agree that Knight is one of those guys.

For Nash, he blossomed in an up-tempo pace that allowed him to handle to the ball a lot. He was tough to stop in transition, like Knight, although for different reasons (in this aspect, he is more like Nash's former teammate, Leandro Barbosa - a one man wreaking crew), and was great at getting in the paint and keeping his dribble alive. I see the same qualities in Knight. He might not be a pure point guard yet, but he gets into the paint and shows great control inside. He can protect the ball with his body and change speeds well. Like Nash, he can learn to drive inside and keep his dribble alive while looking for teammates. I really don't think passing is going to be a big problem for him. Whatever system he gets put in, he will learn the inside and outs of the team until he knows where everyone will be at all times. He's just that kind of guy. Its hard to see him failing.

With his jumper, he has already succeeded. He has great mechanics, evaluating straight up and down, and NBA range. His ability to operate the pick and roll has improved, as him and Harrelson have developed great chemistry. You have to guard him for his shot, but he can capitalize on tight defense by heading to the basket. In the paint, he has excellent touch. It is something he has had to learn since his mediocre first step isn't always able to get him directly to the basket. He makes some fantastic shots/runners going away from the hoop like the one against Princeton.

Defensively, he has what it takes to be a terrific defender but he's not there yet. The Final Four matchup against Kemba Walker gives him the perfect opportunity to show what he can do. Kemba will most definitely have his hands full with arguably the most physically gifted point guards he has seen all year. Because of this matchup, I feel strongly about Kentucky winning the game. Kentucky has the advantage elsewhere and Kemba can't carry his team against a guy like Knight. At least I dont think he can. So far, Kemba has shown that its not smart to count him out.

Now am I simply overreacting to Knight's last few games? I don't believe so. We are talking about a freshman that was good enough to make SEC all first team. He was Gatorade National Boys Basketball Player of the Year twice. He is the floor general for a final four team. He was a sleeper among scouts all year long. Now its time to give Knight the time of day and the credit he deserves. He's not Rose, Evans, or Wall. He's his own player and has a chance to be the only one of Cal's point guards to win him the whole tournament.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Arizona and Derrick Williams' Statement Game

Derrick Williams shared the spotlight with his entire Arizona team after the win against Texas. It wasn't his best game, but he came up big at the end. His teammates showed what they were capable of by picking up the slack, most notably a 16 point performance by Solomon Hill, who channeled his high school basketball days against his SoCal peer - Jordan Hamilton. The game gained the attention of some after Derrick Williams hit a big shot a the end, but the attention was mainly focused on Rick Barnes being out-coached yet again.

Against Coach K and Duke, simply out-coaching the opponent was out of the question. Like Texas, Duke had more talent and also had a frontline that could give Arizona's star some trouble. Nobody picked Arizona to beat Duke. Derrick Williams would have to carry the load and then some. "He's good, but he's not THAT good" was the general consensus among the experts.

Well not only did Derrick Williams prove who the best player on the court was, but he did in fact lead his team to victory. He did it in such a convincing way that he has vaulted himself front and center into the draft spotlight. Before the game, he was a top 5 pick with an outside shot of going number one. Now he has two legs in the race and his head may be out in front.

Williams started off the game with two big three pointers and a thunderous dunk. He was matched up against Mason Plumlee for the most part, who did manage to block two of his shots in the first half. Two blocked shots were hardly enough to keep D-Will down. He battled his way against a bigger front line and a pesky Singler who tried to help with double teams. It worked - once. There were countless other times where he was just too quick, too strong, and too determined to be stopped. He scored 25 of his 32 points in the 1st half as he fought to keep his team above water. It was obvious it was his night as he hit a contested shot from beyond NBA 3-pt right before he headed to the locker room for halftime.

He had kept his team in the game, trailing by six at the half. Still, there was no way he could keep up his pace to score 50 points. He was going to need some help - he had to do enough fighting on defense and the boards. After halftime, he got some help with the aide of Momo Jones and company. It had seemed his magic had worn off on the rest of his team, like in the movie Space Jam when everyone got ahold of MJ's "secret stuff". Derrick Williams was posterizing people with athleticism that I could only explain by hypothesizing that Amare and Shawn Marion had an affair during their days in Phoenix. Derrick Williams is what they left behind as a gift to the state of Arizona. Suddenly, Jamelle Horne channeled his inner D-Will and served up his own facial to Kyle Singler.

A Duke team that looked to be too intimidating and big for Arizona in the first half, was now the team that struggled to get anything going. Mason Plumlee stopped boxing out. Nolan Smith was lost the entire game and Singler wasn't able to keep up his hot start. Many will blame the loss on Kyrie Irving, but the credit goes to Arizona who went straight at Duke and turned the tables around. The second half ended up being a dunk fest and Arizona came away with a 93-77 win.

Our hero only had 7 points in the second half. His job was already done in the first twenty minutes. He single-handedly gave his teammates hope going into the locker room. He did it all in the first half and when his teammates were ready to dig into a struggling Duke team, he focused on the dirty work.

Williams grabbed 13 rebounds in the game as Arizona out-rebounded Duke 35-26. More importantly, he offered reinforcement to the belief that he can play power forward. Not only can this guy play power forward, but he is perfect for what the power forward position is nowadays.

Williams is strong in the paint - he can finish with contact and with either hand. There is a reason why he drew more fouls than anyone else in the nation. His explosiveness isn't a bad thing to have going up against 7 footers either.

D-Will is also highly skilled. He puts the ball on the floor and gets fouled. He is a great shooter, it is time to give him some credit for his unbelievable 3-pt percentage. He was 5-6 tonight against a Duke team who is one of the stingiest teams around on the perimeter! Williams will be a matchup nightmare who can play some three, but will do more than fine against PFs too. He is a new age power forward who can stretch the floor and do whatever is asked of him. Tonight he was even seen dribbling the ball up the court on a couple of occasions.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Williams is where he started from. He was a second rounder before this season. He has put in an incredible amount of work to transfer his game. Not only has he become a better shooter, he has made himself into a better athlete! He has pretty much turned himself from a Derrick Brown level athlete to a guy that can hang with Blake Griffin. With his work ethic and current level of play, the sky is the limit and the floor is the ceiling.

Welcome to the big time, Derrick Williams.

Other Notes

- Mason Plumlee showed some impressive things and some not so impressive things. He had four block shots, including two on Williams and another one where his head came close to hitting the rim! He gets up and down the court well and can elevate with the best of them. Unfortunately for his stock, he also had the fire taken out of him in the second half. He didn't box out and didn't make his presence known around the hoop. As I said earlier, the second half became a dunk contest for Arizona. Plumlee leaves a lot to be desired in terms of competitiveness.

- Nolan Smith was completely out of sync playing with Kyrie Irving today. I feel for the kid. He had a great career at Duke and I wonder how he feels about having to change his style in the middle of the tournament after a great season on the ball. He was visibly disappointed after the game - no doubt he was more shocked than anybody that their run is over. He wasn't prepared for his career to end today. I wasn't either.

- Kyle Singler also had a great career ended today. While Im not high on his draft stock, he finished the season strong. I have many bad memories of him destroying Maryland due to mismatches. He looked his best in his early years when he could spread the floor at the 4 position. An absolute matchup nightmare. He has transformed himself into more of a three which will help his stock, but he's nothing more than a role player. I will always remember his toughness which was highlighted today when he suffered a cut by preventing Derrick Williams from getting an easy bucket.

- Kyrie Irving was overshadowed by Derrick Williams, but he played great. There will be more to said about his impact on the team than his actual performance today, but there is nothing he did wrong. Credit to him for making the comeback in the first place. He is still very much in the discussion for the #1 pick along with Williams, Barnes, and possibly Perry Jones and Kanter after workouts. The race is more wide open than I ever remember.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Curious Case of Justin Harper

Last year, Justin Harper was an afterthought. He put up very average numbers on a mid-major team. If you watched him play, you could see some potential - he had a great stroke from outside and moved well - but his numbers didn't match. I remember noticing his play in a game against Wake Forest last year as I was looking at Al-Farouq Aminu. He had ten points that game before fouling out in 22 minutes, but I was intrigued enough to look up his numbers online. After seeing his pedestrian numbers, I quickly dismissed him as a serious prospect to consider. Looking back now, it is hard to blame me or the rest of the draft community who did the same.

After all, Harper was a stretch four who could shoot but not much else. He wasn't even that good at his craft - shooting 34% from three and a mediocre 68% from the line. Now this brings up two questions that have to be answered. Can a guy that failed to distinguish himself in a non-BCS conference until his senior year really be that great of a player? And even more importantly, is he really THAT great of a shooter?

To answer the first question, I decided to make a list of all non-BCS prospect that have had any bit of success over the past four years. I eliminated guys who left before their junior year because it is reasonable to believe that they may have only had one good college season. That got rid of guys like Jordan Crawford, Gordon Hayward, and Luke Babbitt who all left after their sophomore season last year. Transfers like Darington Hobson also were not included for obvious reasons. By doing that, I came up with these 18 players.

Larry Sanders - CAA Defensive Player of the Year his sophomore year
Armon Johnson - 1st Team All-WAC his sophomore year
Steph Curry - 2nd Team All-American his sophomore year
Eric Maynor - CAA player of the year his junior year
Jermaine Taylor - All-Conference USA second team his junior year (POY his senior season)
Derrick Brown - 2nd Team All-A10 his junior year
Robert Vaden - 1st Team All-Conference USA his junior year
Lester Hudson - OVC Player of the year his junior year
Jason Thompson - 1st Team All-MAAC his junior year
Courtney Lee - 1st Team All-Sun Belt his sophomore year
George Hill - 1st Team All-Summit Conference his sophomore year
JR Giddens - MWC Co-POY his senior year
Joey Dorsey - 1st Team All-Conference USA his junior year
Chris Douglas-Roberts - 1st Team All-American his junior year
Jason Smith - 1st Team All-MWC his sophomore year
Morris Almond - 1st Team All-Conference USA his junior year
Nick Fazekas - MWC POY his sophomore year
Ramon Sessions - WAC Freshman of the year

We could go on, this trend continues all throughout the last decade. These guys all were big time players before their senior seasons. Harper is in uncharted waters. He didnt have much success before this year. I think it is fair to interpret that as he's a fairly average basketball player besides one skill. Against regular college competition, he failed to stand out until his senior year. Sure he improved other areas of his game this year, but it is obvious to see those skills still are lacking.

That one skill, of course, is his shooting. To make it in the NBA, he is going to have to be one of the best shooting big men of recent memory. That brings us to the final questions of our two part study - how good of a shooter is he?

If you look at just this season, he is one of the best shooting big men in awhile. There are plenty of good 6-8 shooters that have past through the college ranks, but what makes Harper better than them is his 6-10 frame and athleticism. He hasn't figured out how to use his athleticism completely yet, but he can at least hang with NBA level athletes. The reason why we aren't talking about Pat Calathes or Steve Novak is because they fail the eye test athletically.

After digging through 3-pt shooting stats of the past ten years for power forwards, I found that Harper's season ranks only behind the aforementioned Steve Novak when it comes to a healthy balance of accuracy and frequency. Novak took 9.9 threes per 40 minutes pace adjusted while making 46.7% of them, while Harper made 45.2% on 6.1 three per 40 minutes pace adjusted.

Guys like Ryan Anderson, Kevin Pittsnogle, Daniel Kickert, Kevin Durant, and John Shurna all had great numbers as well, but Harper and Novak stand above the rest.

Based off this, Harper definitely can make it in a NBA rotation as a shooter. Novak is still getting 10 day contracts even though he brings far less to the table than Harper. The only question left to answer is whether or not his shooting was a fluke. He vastly improved his numbers this year and his free throw percentage never pointed to him being an elite shooter.

There is only way to find out, though, and that is to give him a chance. His stroke is pure and simple, which makes me believe he has what it takes to make it in the league. Its enough to justify taking him in the late first to early second round.

Just remember what you are getting out of Harper - a stretch four that is meant to come off the bench. Some teams use stretch fours more than others, most notable Orlando. He needs to find a team that will utilize him correctly. He lacks the tools to be a complete power forward and should not be taken by a team expecting him to be a traditional four who plays in the post.

His past may be unusual for a draft prospect, but it is pretty clear what he will bring to the table in the NBA.

Court Vision: Looking into the Future with Kendall Marshall

The first time I saw Kendall Marshall was his junior year in high school. The setting - Wise High School in front of his future coach Roy Williams. He was pitted against fellow North Carolina commit, Reggie Bullock in what was a can't miss game. The game got off to a bad start for Marshall's O'Connell squad, and with 5:31 left in the third quarter they were staring at a 45-29 deficit. Sitting a row behind O'Connell's bench, I was infatuated with watching how this young kid handled himself. There was something about him that was hard to explain, but he remained calm in every huddle, while the fire was still apparent in his eyes. He was a quiet leader - a guy who was well liked and didnt need to raise his voice for respect.

Coming out of a timeout midway through the third quarter, after receiving instructions from Joe Wootten (son of Morgan Wootten), Marshall and his troops began to make a run. Marshall was in complete control of the game, much in the way you think of him now at North Carolina, making all the right passes and decisions.

When people question whether Marshall is a product of the players around him, I think back to his high school days. His team had some talent, but they weren't in the same league as Oak Hill, DeMatha, Montrose, etc. Their 6-5 post players received some low major interest, but that was it. Still, Marshall led that team to some great wins, including the game against Bullock, which they eventually won 71-64. Marshall's stat line?

11 points, 7 assists, and 5 rebounds.

He battled the taller and more athletic Bullock the whole game, holding him to 17 point on a host of shots. After the game, Wootten called Marshall's defense on Bullock "tremendous" and mentioned that he contested every shot.

You see, Marshall does a lot more offensively then what meets the eye. Assists and turnovers aren't a complete measure on point guard play. There are other ways to set up your teammates than using quickness to get into the lane and draw defenders. Marshall is living proof of that. If you didnt know that before, watching him play will force you to believe that basketball is more than skills and athleticism. That is the only way to explain Marshall's impact on the game. How exactly does he do it?

Well, being a good passing point guard is more than simply being a good passer and seeing the court.

In George Dohrmann's must-read book "Play Their Hearts Out", Demetrius Walker's high school coach scolded the star after his teammate dropped one of his passes. He yanked him from the game and asked him why he threw the pass. The pass was on target and could have been caught, but the coach made a point that Walker knew his unskilled teammate was incapable of making that kind of play. Part of being a point guard is knowing your teammates limitations and putting them in position to succeed. You can make flashy passes to make yourself look good, but it doesn't mean they are good passes. Kendall Marshall gets that.

Knowing your teammates is one thing, knowing the game of basketball is another. Without great physical tools, Marshall has to find other ways to get his teammates open looks. While being guarded, Marshall will often drive at a different defender guarding a teammate, forcing that defender to hedge over to Marshall. That creates all the opening Marshall needs to deliver a pass. In basketball, the skip pass seems to be a dying term. Used correctly like Marshall does, it can keep the defense off-balance and in constant rotation. Those are two things right there that he does as good as any other college player. Hockey assists. Quick and correct decisions. Feeding the ball into the post. If you want to define the term true point, use a guy like Marshall who knows how to play the game, not someone who uses his athleticism to get all his assists and dribbles the air out of the ball.

His offensive game is going to draw comparisons with Jason Kidd and Ricky Rubio. Kidd was an absolute stat sheet stuffer in high school. He was on a different level than Marshall athletically. Still, it is easy to see who Marshall patterns his game after.

As for Rubio, I suspect this example to be used a lot by people justifying taking him in the lottery. The both aren't athletically gifted, but are almost prodigious with their understanding of the game of basketball. Neither can shoot very well. Where Rubio has the advantage is defensively. Marshall has short arms, while Rubio sports a nice wingspan. Rubio has quick hands and generates a lot of steals. He also is faster and gets to the basketball better. If Marshall waits to declare until after Rubio has played in the NBA, I can see his success being a factor. If Rubio ends up being great, there is hope for Kendall.

Of course, Marshall has plenty of limitations which could explain how he understands the nuances of the game better than anyone else - he has no choice. He's not a good shooter. He can't jump. He has short arms. His dribble is too high at times which hurts him driving through traffic. He lacks strength. Athletically, he is like a Marcus Williams (UCONN) or Greivis Vasquez. Defense will be a struggle no matter how much effort he puts in.

These are all the things he can't do. This is what scouts will point at whenever he decides to entering the draft. It has the making of the always classic, "its not what you can't do, its what you CAN do", theorem. The debate on Marshall is going to be tough and may go on for three more years. He is such a tough prospect to judge whether or not he will be successful, it seems many draft pundits want to put it on the back burner and hope they get a few more years to evaluate.

Call me crazy, but I have faith in him.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Portsmouth Invitational Invites

There never seems to be a site that keep track of the invites until they are all officially announced, so I've done the honors of digging through the internet to compile a list. Some of these guys have yet to accept their invites and others are alternates.

Washington's Matthew Bryan-Amaning
Southern California's Alex Stephenson
Minnesota's Blake Hoffarber (alternate)
Siena's Ryan Rossiter
Texas's Gary Johnson
North Carolina State's Tracy Smith
Southern Methodist's Papa Dia

Virginia Tech's Jeff Allen
Richmond's Kevin Anderson
James Madison's Denzel Bowles
Temple's Lavoy Allen (invite)
Arizona's Jamelle Horne (invite)
Pittsburgh's Gilbert Brown (invite)
Pittsburgh's Brad Wanamaker (invite)
Pittsburgh's Gary McGhee (invite)
Kentucky's Josh Harrellson
Tulsa's Justin Hurtt
Nicholls State's Anatoly Bose
Virginia Tech's Malcolm Delaney
Old Dominion's Frank Hassell
Marquette's Jimmy Butler
Ohio State's Jon Diebler
Ohio State's David Lighty
San Diego State's Billy White
San Diego State's Malcolm Thomas
Wisconsin's Jon Leuer
Michigan State's Durrell Summers
Illinois' Mike Davis
Illinois' Mike Tisdale
Iowa State's Diante Garrett
Cleveland State's Norris Cole
Villanova's Cory Fisher
Villanova's Corey Stokes (invite)
Syracuse's Rick Jackson (invite)
Georgetown's Chris Wright (invite)
Georgetown's Austin Freeman (invite)
Notre Dame's Ben Hansbrough (turned down invite)
Northeastern's Chaisson Allen
San Jose State's Adrian Oliver
Washington's Justin Holiday (invite)
Iowa State's Jamie Vanderbeken (alternate)
Iowa State's Darion Anderson (alternate)
College of Charleston's Andrew Goudelock
Montana's Brian Qvale

If it turns out the majority of this group does show up, Portsmouth will have a talented field with many possible second rounders.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Fit versus Need - Whats the difference?

One thing that irks me when discussing mock drafts is when people talk about what their team needs. They justify taking player X over another player because they already have a quality player at the potential draftees position. Looking back through these types of talk provides high comedy, as often times it leads teams to picking the worse player. The NBA draft is enough of a guessing game - get a guy you feel has the best chance to become a solid player.

Discussing needs at the top of the draft is especially cringe-worthy. We are talking about teams that failed to make the playoffs. They could use help anywhere. Seriously, should the Bobcats refrain from taking a power forward because they have Tyrus Thomas? Or DJ Augustin? Or with Cleveland, do they also ignore all power forwards since they house JJ Hickson on their roster? Seems like a great way to eliminate a good amount of the player pool to me.

For anyone making those arguments, do yourself a favor and go back a few years a look at rosters. Decent/solid starter types get worse, or leave for a new team often. Unless Blake Griffin is your PF, dont count out drafting a PF in the lottery.

People fail to realize that there are 48 minutes in a basketball game. Plenty of wings are interchangeable, along with bigs, so there can be 96 minutes at each. Its not hard to find starter minutes for three wings if they are all good - its not a bad problem to have. The NBA also allows trades which is a novel concept. Bottom feeder teams need to concentrate on getting quality pieces for their team, whether they need them or not. Trade chips are always useful and they can hold onto them for a couple of years until they are ready to make a run.

Because of that wall of text, you may believe that I think that every team's draft board should look the same then. Actually, quite the opposite. Style of play is a lot more important than need. Countless times a player has failed on one team and then bloomed on another. Coaching, teammates, minutes (which can be called need, but its a small part of a bigger equation), tempo, scheme are all factors. I'll break them down one by one.

Coaching - Coaches change as much as players, so some teams that go through coaches like underwear should disregard this. But you don't draft a player with a weak mental make-up to play with Jerry Sloan. Also, some teams have great big men coaches that have had success at developing raw big men. If you have on, you can pull the trigger on Keith Benson - maybe even in the 1st round. If not, let him go. He'll flop in your organization.

Teammates - If Im the Kings, I want to avoid drafting a kid with character issues. They have enough problems and dont have the kind of players to help someone out like that. Teams with strong locker rooms, like the Spurs, can afford to take a problem child. He'll learn quickly to either "put up" or "shut up". In addition, if you lack an energy/locker room guy, take one in the second round. If you have too many players that are selfish, dont add to the fire.

Minutes - Minutes are necessary for players to develop, some more so than others. Its a nice bonus to be able to give a player some playing time. For some guys, too much may break their confidence if they arent ready to be thrown into the fire. Others will lose confidence and/or interest if they are forced to ride the bench all year.

Tempo - This is pretty easy to explain and understand. There are halfcourt guys and fullcourt guys. If you are the Suns, Knicks, or Warriors look for a guy who can get up and down the court as opposed to a slow plodder. The Blazers shouldn't be drafting anyone who only scores in transition.

Scheme - This goes along with tempo and coaching, just more specific to individual teams. A popular example this year would be how Jordan Hamilton would transfer to Utah's flex offense. Hamilton plays in the same offense at Texas and his shooting makes him a good fit there.

There are other factors to look at, but dont make and break anything. All these are simply part of an equation that should effect each team's draft board. Like for the Raptors, they have a young wing that is more of a slasher. To complement him, they could look for another wing who can shoot. This becomes more of a factor if we are talking about complementing a star player. In Philly, Turner and Iguodala dont complement each other. Its up in the air whether it was a bad pick, although rumor has it that the 76ers might trade Iguodala in the offseason. With a high pick like that, its understandable to take the player everyone had pegged as the second best in the draft. My beliefs become more true the farther you go down the draft board. Top 5 should mainly be best player available.

Another thing to focus on is defense. Using the 76ers as an example, they have great perimeter defenders. Some may think that it would give them leeway in drafting a perimeter defender who cant defend. Quite the contrary, because a poor defender would render the rest of the strong defenders useless in the land of the NBA, where one-on-one matchups are exploited.

With great defensive bigs, though, you can lean on them to erase bad guard defense. And then there are the teams that are so bad defensively, that they seem to have lost interest in even trying to fix the problem. Teams like the Warriors are where you send the Jimmers of the world to have a good career of losing basketball.

One final thought is the change of pace pick. Using the 76ers again, all their bigs are the same. Brand, Hawes, Young, Speights, Songaila, Brackins, and Battie are all jump shooters who fail to provide a defensive presence. Adding a guy like John Henson would really change the feel to that group.

The right situation can make or break a player. Pre-draft rankings are only good for a general idea. Once players find their team, one can make a better guess at how the players career with play out.

Now go ahead and check out your favorite team's roster from a few years ago and tell me what you think.

Friday, March 18, 2011

First Round Exits: Next stop, NBA? (Jeff Taylor, Keith Benson, Tobias Harris)

The NCAA tournament presents an opportunity for the whole basketball community to observe prospects at the biggest stage, granting players a lot more attention than they are used to. They are treated like a pro - going through countless interviews, playing on one day of rest, and going up against quality talent each game - and in the end, some will end up being pros. Some put more emphasis on the draft than others, but for the media, it definitely offers a chance for them to scrutinize and hype players up. After losing in the "second round", these prospects are all free of further scrutiny from college basketball fans, but the hype train has been derailed as well. The scrunitizing, however, has only just begun from NBA personnel. Plenty of tape is now available to watch and individual workouts and combines are just around the corner. Where do the following players stand now?

Jeff Taylor - Taylor is a junior who will be 22 before the draft comes along. That is considered old for a prospect, so while Vanderbilt could be very dangerous with him Jenkins and Ezeli next year, he has to give the NBA draft some thought. The lack of tournament success surely stings, but it doesnt hurt Taylor much. He has been on scouts radars for the past two years and there is plenty of film out there. Taylor is the kind of player who plays like a role player, so the fact that he couldnt lead his team past the 1st round isnt a big knock on him. It is no secret that he prefers to be a second banana, and his game matches his personality.

His biggest strength is his athleticism. He has a great first step. He enjoys using that step to collapse the defense a bit and then kick it out to his teammates, which is often a more effective play than him taking it all the way to the rim. While his first step is great, once he gets around the hoop, he struggles to finish. He's a great leaper and dunker, but he has yet to learn to finish through traffic and creative space inside. To create space outside, he has an effective crossover that is used in a herky-jerky way to free him for a jump shot. Fortunately for his stock, he has gone from one made three last year, to 39 treys this season. He used last offseason to work on both his shot and his body, which he added a noticeable amount of muscle to. If last offseason was supposed to be his first step into becoming a first round pick, he might have succeeded because his stock definitely improved with the improvement of his jump shot. Look for him in the mid-late first round if he declares.

Keith Benson - There is no doubt that Keith Benson will be taking his talents to the draft, as he has already turned in 4 productive years in college. He has put up great numbers and has all the measurables, but it may not be enough to get him in the first round. One may blame it on the small conference, but it is obvious from watching him play that he could for put up great scoring numbers anywhere in the country. He is that talented offensively. He can shoot it, put it on the floor, and moves wonderfully for a center. The problem, though, is his strength. At the age of 22, he still lacks the muscle to hang in the post at either end of the floor. That will surely effect both his gaudy rebounding and block shot statistics, and probably make him more of a liability on defense despite a great wingspan. It doesnt help that he doesnt have the best BBIQ. Offensively, his strength is going to make him mostly and jump shooter and driver.

His weakness makes him a strong candidate for the D-League where he will almost certainly spend his fair amount of time over the next year or two. In the right organization, he can eventually work his way into an NBA rotation, maybe even as a starter. More than likely, though, you will still find him as a fringe NBA player years down the road. He reminds me of Courtney Sims of the D-League, who puts up excellent numbers each year, but never gets more than a 10 day call-up. To avoid being like Sims, Benson needs to gain that strength and become more gritty. OKC would be an ideal fit for both parties. They have their own D-league team and do a good job of developing their own players, while the Thunder would benefit by having an athletic big with a face-up offensive game. The Thunder love athletic, super long centers so it could be the perfect match. Right now, he would be a stretch in the first round.

Tobias Harris - The Bruce Pearl turmoil definitely effected the Vols and resulted in them getting demolished by the Michigan Wolverines. That same turmoil might end up forcing out their best player too, Tobias Harris. Harris was the only bright spot in their tournament game, scoring 19 points in the first half on perfect shooting. He uses an inside-out game like his cousin, Channing Frye, to do his damage. He drives strong to the hoop, posts up, and can hit the college three. He relies on good fundamentals and skills, which in turn, makes him the model of consistency. It was nice to see him breakout, though, against Michigan and has definitely gotten people talking about him.

All signs show Harris being a great kid, coachable, hard-working, and a team player. He understands the game a lot better than most freshman and does a great job picking his spots offensively. The kind of production at his age alone warrants first round consideration. He doesnt have the athleticism to be talked about in the lottery with some of his McDonald All-American peers, but he could be the first one offering solid contributions to a winning team. Coaches will love him and kind a way to use his unique skill set on offense and put him in position to hang defensively.

Stock Attack: Terrence Jones

Current Consensus Projection: Lottery

Terrence Jones hit his freshman season with a head of steam this year, immediately planting himself in lottery discussions. After some huge games against Oklahoma (29pts 13boards) and Notre Dame (27pts 17boards) combined with a Irving injury and Barnes's struggle, he even received some support as the number one pick. He had the numbers, but to me, the numbers didnt exactly add up.

Now he has quietly comeback down to earth, while most still put him right outside of the top 5.  He's never been a top 5 pick in my mind, or even a lottery guy, and I feel like Ive already been somewhat justified in my beliefs. For one, Calipari has stated that he feels none of his players are ready for the NBA Draft. He didnt say that about Patterson, Wall, and Cousins. He's not the kind of coach that can sabotage players' stock for his own benefit.

But hey, if I relied on coaches to form opinions Id have Marshon Brooks pegged as the best scorer in the Big East and sure-fire first rounder, while believing that Kenneth Faried is the best thing since Dennis Rodman (credit to Rick Pitino for both). Ive taken in plenty of Terrence Jones games myself and see him having a rough transition into the league.

I have nothing against tweeners - if I did Id be attacking Vesely, Derrick Williams, and Kawhi Leonard too - but Terrence Jones college game thrives off of mismatches he wont see in the NBA. He faces up PFs and takes them off the dribble and takes smaller defenders into the post. I guess thats where the Lamar Odom comparisons come from, right?

But can he drive by small forwards or elite PFs?

He hasnt shown the skillset to make someone believe that he offers much variety offensively. He only drives  left. You wonder why his play dropped off going through the SEC a second time? Teams figured him out. Its not too hard. He can only drive left, he doesnt change directions well, and doesnt play smart team-oriented ball offensively. His shooting percentage has managed to drop. He's only shooting 43% from the floor now. It beats Harrison Barnes, but there is a big difference between them. Barnes has been scoring by using NBA moves, things that he will also be able to do at the next level. Also, Jones is a 3/4 while Barnes is a 2/3.

The rest of his offensive game isnt helping him. He can post guys up, but not even his biggest fans believe he will be a major post threat in the NBA. His jumper is ugly. He shoots 31% from 3 and 65% from the line. Jumpshots can always been fixed, but his needs a lot of work.

Lets get to the defensive end of the court. Who does he guard? The biggest thing that determines a tweener is the fact that they are in between postions not on offense, but on defense. Offenses can use tweeners to their advantage - on defense, they are often ostracized by opponents and exposed. In my opinion, Terrence Jones has a better shot at playing SF. He actually plays great on ball defense when given the opportunity. He wont be as good against NBA SFs, but I think he could be passable in terms of one on one defense. Too bad defense involves more than that, though, and that is where I question Jones's awareness and BBIQ. Time and time again, he will get himself out of positions trying to play help defense. Trying is the operative word because he usually just places himself in between ball and man without being in position to effect either. What ends up happening a lot of times is a skip pass to his man, which forces Jones to scramble back to his man. He closes out quick, but with no sense of defending the drive. He makes it very simple for the defender to catch the ball and use his momentum against him. He puts himself in these positions over and over again, which is frustrating to me that he doesnt recognize his bad positioning and ensuring close outs. Going along with that, he also tends to bite on play fakes and fall asleep and lose his man. He needs to show better commitment to all that defense in basketball entails - not just what he has to do when his man has the ball.

In the end, there are too many forwards out there that are better bets. Id take Kawhi Leonard, John Henson, Derrick Williams, Perry Jones, Jan Vesely, and possibly Tobias Harris before him. Those are just the combo guys. Other forwards Id take over him are Tyler Honeycutt, Harrison Barnes, Jared Sullinger, Tristan Thompson, Jordan Hamilton, and Marcus Morris. Coach Cal might be wrong, though, it might be best for Jones to leave before Kentucky's super class of forwards comes in to steal his minutes.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Faried, Honeycutt, Ezeli, and Jenkins with Most to Gain Today

These guys all have a lot to gain from NCAA tournament exposure one way or another. They all have first round potential, but none are a lock at this point. Some need the games to get the hype train rolling enough to enter their name in the draft, others just need a few games to put a good taste in scouts' mouths.

The Senior

Personally, I think Faried is a top 20 pick, and will definitely prove his worth once he reaches the NBA. Its hard to go wrong with the best rebounder in NCAA history. This guy has a great attitude, work ethic, and motor on the court. The complete package. Hard to see him failing. At worst he is a great rebounder off the bench, while he has the potential to be the best thing since Dennis Rodman. He's a great athlete who gets rebounds all over the court and sees it as his job to do so. Rebounding is how he started off getting scoring opportunities, but he has now worked on his game enough to be able to take slower defenders off the dribble and get to the hoop. He should be able to do that in the NBA too, similar to Paul Millsap. He can also be a terror running the court on the fastbreak. A team like the Knicks would be a great fit for him in the teens.

The Underachiever

Tyler Honeycutt is a player that has a whole lot of talent, but has yet to put it together. Some still think, including me, that he is a first rounder even without consistent production. With a few good games in front of NBA talent evaluators, though, he can go from first rounder to late lottery-mid first round. A few good games is all Tyler needs - scouts can easily convince themselves that the way he performed on the biggest stage is a sign of things to come. Plus, seeing a guy like him in person is eye-catching. A few big games from Honeycutt would make me feel comfortable taking him in the teens hoping he becomes the next Tayshaun Prince.

The Big Man

Festus Ezeli is a guy I have touted the entire season, but scouts havent been as high on him. They certainly have seen him plenty with prospects like Jenkins and Taylor playing alongside him. A NCAA tournament run by Vandebilt could help the ball getting role by getting scouts to look at him as a 2011 draft prospect as opposed to next year. He has prototypical center size and lacks a real weakness. At the same time, he isnt particularly strong in any area, although he can be a great defender once he learns to play without fouling. His post game is a work in progress, but he gets the job done with basic post moves. He has a strong base which helps him defending and establishing position in the paint on offense. Solid shot blocker. He has improved a ton since joining the Vanderbilt basketball team and there is still upside. He isnt a freak athlete like some other raw centers, but he is stronger and smarter than most.

The Great College Player

While Kemba Walker, Jimmer Fredette, and Nolan Smith get all the national attention for their scoring abilities, John Jenkins has gone under the radar in the SEC. He has gone from a spot-up shooter, to a guy who can create his own shot. What I like about him is his mental makeup - he doesnt get down when his shot isnt falling, which is a pivotal trait for a shooter. His scoring mentality has enabled him to take the reigns of Vandy's offense instead of deferring to another first rounder prospect, Jeff Taylor. Jenkins is more of a complete offensive player than he gets credit for and also benefits from his stocky frame. A couple of big nights in the NCAA tournament will get people talking and could translate into him declaring for the draft this year. If not, he will be in prime position to take over as one of the faces of college basketball next year.

The Late Bloomer

Justin Harper will be facing that Vanderbilt team and scouts will definitely be tuned in. Harper has slowly been climbing draft boards as the word is spreading about this solid athlete with a great jumper. In a league where each team is in search of a stretch four, Harper will be the guy that can provide it in this draft class. His NCAA performance isnt as big of a deal as just the actual exposure he will receive. Harper is going to be a coveted player in the draft whether he struggles or not. Finding power forwards that shoot like him is a tough task. His climb could be similar to Jason Thompson's climb a few years ago as more scouts got word of him late in the season.

The Real Day 1 of the NCAA Tournament - The Early Games

The games start today at 12:15pm, but the first intriguing game for scouts isn't until Kenneth Faried takes the floor against Louisville at 1:40pm. Before that game tips-off, enjoy watching WVU/Clemson and ODU/Butler, both of which could go either way. If you really want to take a look at a guy who could eventually find himself in the NBA out of those four teams, take a look at ODU's Kent Bazemore.

ESPN's Diamond Leung profile him here.

He's a small town kid who went under the radar in the recruiting process. If you arent careful watching him even now, you could miss what he brings to the table, but do yourself a favor and keep an eye on him the whole game. He doesnt take a lot of shots, but picks his spots well and scores efficiently. Finishes well near the hoop and has a solid midrange game. Sets up his teammates with great passes too when his shot isnt there. A great defender who understands positioning. Improving shooter which is a big key to whether or not he gets drafted next year.

He plays the game similar to St. John's DJ Kennedy. Both have a lot of role playing qualities which make them attractive. Deceptive athletes. Kennedy is the better shooter, while Bazemore has the edge athletically.

Scouting Report: Nikola Vucevic

Nikola Vucevic
Southern California
Bar, Montenegro

Nikola Vucevic is on his way up draft boards after a strong play in-conference to close out his junior season.

Vucevic has great size, might be even bigger than 6-10, and the wingspan that goes along with it. His size has made him a good college rebounder, but I dont see that as a big strength in the NBA. He cant rebound much outside of his area and his hands are a little shaky. Not much of an athlete either, I can see him being a average rebounder and defender but not much more.

His real strength is on offense, where he can work in the post and float out and shoot a jumper. He's a natural in the post, showing great footwork and moves. He makes it look easy. He has good strength and constantly battles for post position down low. Tough and competitive. He sees a lot of double teams and has proven to be a good passer out of them. Gets frustrated at times because of terrible guard play, he works so hard for position and his guards choose to chuck up shots instead. Still shows maturity in making the right decision whenever he has the ball.

I see some Mehmet Okur in his game. Better back to the basket player and less of a shooter. Similar capabilities defending and rebounding. Okur also had strength to defend inside, but lacked the lateral quickness to be more than average.

Scouting Report: Aquille Carr

Aquille Carr
Class of 2013
17 years old
Patterson High School
Baltimore, Maryland

Aquille Carr has taken the city of Baltimore by storm with his encore performance to his freshman season that saw him average 25.5ppg. This season, as only a sophomore, he led Patterson to the 4A finals where they were ultimately defeated, but not from lack of effort from Carr, who dropped 27 points. He's an interesting player, and while his future outside of high school is a question mark, there is no debating he's on track to having one of the best high school careers ever in Charm City.

Carr is an electrifying point guard that gets to the basket at will and delivers flashy passes. His quickness, ball handling, and explosiveness are all off the charts. At only 5'6'', he is able to dunk the ball. At this point, his shot is poor, but it doesnt matter at the high school level. He is able to split double teams, squeezing his small frame through non-existent holes, and ultimately get to the hoop. He is super aggressive and will try to fit through even the slightest seem. Many times he will momentarily lose control of the ball on the way to the hoop, only to recover it himself before anyone else reacts. His size comes in handy for that reason - he can lose control of the ball, but pick it up before anyone else has a chance to bend over to recover it.

Once Carr recovers the ball, he is able to finish among the trees with his strength and explosiveness. He's a great leaper, who doesnt need a lot of momentum to get off the ground. He draws contact so consistently, referees have trouble blowing their whistle each time. His touch at the rim needs work, as he is not automatic, but its good for a high level high school player. If he misses his first attempt, dont count out the little man on the boards - he averaged 8 rebounds per game in his freshman year. He is absolutely relentless in following his missed shots with the determination of getting the ball back. Sometimes an opposing big will come down with his miss, but he will be on the ground waiting for him to lower the ball below his waist. His quick hands (averaged 5.3 spg as a freshman), determination, and strength have ripped the ball from the opposition more times than once.

Its tough to nitpik a sophomore in high school  to this degree, but he is very old for his class and is far from a complete player. He plays at full speed the whole game. If he can learn to change up his tempo, his scoring prowess will get that much scarier. Right now he is impossible to keep out of the lane, but he can be wild at times. A more in control Carr would equal less charges and more respect from referees. It also would allow him to set up his teammates in situations other than his occasional spectacular assist. He is undeniably a scoring guard, but his passing game will need to develop more for future success. On his current team, there is little structure and guidance, though, so it could benefit him by working on his game under a better coach. His teammates are solid athletes, but like Carr, the play fast and are careless with the ball.

Defensively, Carr shows good effort and has the tools to stay in front of his man. He tends to gamble, but he comes away with the ball enough to make it worth his team's while. His height is a factor that will be with him forever and guys will be able to post him up and shoot over him at will. He has a nice strength base, though, so he can develop the kind of strength that has granted Earl Boykins decent results defending the post.

Word is that Maryland has a lot of interest in Aquille and surely other teams will get involved soon. I'm not sure powerhouse teams will want him at his current state, but he has the potential to put up big numbers in any major conference.