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Saturday, July 7, 2012

Scouting Report: Keith Appling

Height: 6'2''
Weight: 170
Bday: 2/13/1992

Team: Michigan State
Class of 2014

Appling came to Michigan State as a McDonald's All-American heralded for his scoring ability. At just 6'2, he was viewed as a prospect who needed to stay in school for a few years and learn the PG position until he was ready to make an impact at the NBA level.

So far, Appling has completed his sophomore season and has shown improvement under the tutelage of coaching great, Tom Izzo. Entering his junior season, Appling is poised for a breakout year and could emerge as a legitimate NBA prospect.

The best part of Appling's game is his defense. He is an absolute pesky defender who Izzo claims to be the best defender he has coached in a long while. That is pretty high praise for a player who was a young sophomore at the time - being coached by a guy who also coached Eric Snow.

Appling has terrific lateral quickness and despite his 6'2 stature, he sports an above average wingspan. He is the table setter for Michigan State on defense, never taking a play off and often taking on a task of shutting down the opposing teams best player - even if he is giving up a few inches. The one thing Appling needs to improve on defensively is his strength. Right now, he is able to get around pick and rolls surprisingly well due to his tremendous speed, but he can rely on that at the next level.

As a point guard, Appling still has plenty to work on. Last year he had Draymond Green to lead the team and help facilitate the offense, now he will be expected to fill both roles himself. The leadership role seems like natural progression for Appling, who already leads by example and vocally setting up the offense. Being the main playmaker though, will be something that scouts will closely keep an eye on for next season.

Appling struggled in the halfcourt last season, as the Spartans relied on a combination of Green and offensive rebounds, mostly both, to get their points. Appling was very good in transition, but once they settled in for an offensive set, he struggled to get things going.

Part of the problem is the inconsistent 3-pt shot. During his freshman year, it showed promise, but this year, with more defensive attention and less open spot up chances, he made only 25% of attempts. He needs to do a better job of shooting of the dribble, staying under control and getting his feet set. Also, I question his ability to extend even farther back to NBA 3-pt range, as his jumper can be a bit flat. His free throw shooting has been good - nearly 90% his freshman year and just under 80% this past season.

With a better jumper, it should be able to improve his pick and roll game, which looked pretty non existent at times last year. Appling has the speed and the burst to operate, but needs to learn to change speeds and see the entire court. Appling very rarely wows you with a nice pass. His game is very vanilla when it comes to setting up his teammates.

Appling does do a nice job of staying under control and getting the ball down low. Michigan State played a lot of in and out basketball last year and Appling had no problem feeding the bigs. He's a willing passer and a team guy. He doesn't force the issue on offense, but at the same time, doesnt make a lot of plays. I think that could be different next season, as Izzo certainly will be counting on him more for offense.

His transition game is his main way of scoring at this point as he displays great speed and solid body control in the open court. Most of the time in the open court he will take in all the way and finish himself. He does need to get better at starting a break from a point guard's prospective.

Appling is a solid prospect who may end up finishing up his degree and coming out his senior year. Michigan State is in good hands with him on their team the next two years, so look for his name to become bigger and the Spartans to be serious contenders while he is on the roster. Keith Appling will never be great, but I could easily see him being a Royal Ivey type in the NBA. He offers some more upside than that and we will be able to see just how much upside he has next year. The success of guys like Avery Bradley should help his stock. Right now, he looks like a future early second rounder.

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