Friday, August 31, 2012

Theodore Brings a Steady Hand to Antalya BSB

Jordan Theodore is heading to Turkey fresh off his senior year at Seton Hall, a school that saw him progressively get better, cultivating in him averaging 16.1 points and 6.6 assists in 2011-12. He played for a Seton Hall team that went through some tough times during his stint there - from the firing of controversial head coach Bobby Gonzalez to the dismissal of two of his teammates - but Theodore was a mature and steady presence throughout his entire career.

Theodore is someone you can rely upon to run your team and be a leader. He is a prototypical pass first point guard and understands that will be his role in the professional game. At Seton Hall, he showed the ability to run the pick and roll very well, creating plays for both him and his teammates. He has good quickness and flawless handle with either handle and is able to change up speeds, setting himself up for a solid mid-range jumper. During his senior year, he was 8th in the entire NCAA in assists.

Theodore didn't get many looks for the NBA, but he did attend the Portsmouth Invitational (a scouting event for college seniors) and the group workouts held at the New Jersey Nets' facility (he was a last second invite there). The reviews he received were fairly positive, but the bottom line is Theodore can blend in too much out there. He is too small and lacks great explosiveness, part of the reason his FG% is consistently low, while also lacking great range on his outside shot. He does have a decent 6'4'' wingspan and a mature, well developed body that has made him a solid rebounder and defender.

Overall, Theodore will make his teammates around him better and provide a calming presence among his team. He was never able to be a great winner in college, but he certainly has the qualities to lead a good team with quality players around him. His pick and roll game will excel in the Turkish Basketball League.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Scouting Report: Reggie Bullock

Height: 6'5.5''
Wingspan: 6'8.5''
Weight: 190lbs
Bday: 3/16/91

Team: North Carolina
Class of 2014

Being the fifth starter of a North Carolina lineup (after Strickland went down) that saw the other 4 members all get drafted in the first round, Bullock was a lot of the times the forgotten man, but he didn't seem to mind. He proved to be a good role player, complimenting star Harrison Barnes on the wing by providing defense and outside shooting. He beat out incoming McDonald's All-American PJ Hairston for the minutes not because he was a better scorer - he is not - but because of everything else he does.

Bullock's offense last year was very simple. 5 of his 7.6 shot attempts per game were 3-pt shots. It is safe to say that at least one other shot attempt a game came in transition thanks to Kendall Marshall and the Tar Heels uptempo offense. So that leaves Bullock with maybe one shot he created per game. And thats generous because Marshall could have created some of those looks too. Plus he averaged nearly 2 offensive rebounds per game so there was a chance for putbacks.

Oh look, its Reggie Bullock shooting a 3

This doesn't mean Bullock was completely worthless on offense. Not at all. Bullock isn't a good creator or ball handler, but he didn't have to be on this team so he focused on the little things. He would set screens, crash the boards, occupy the foul line area, and keep the floor spread with the threat of his jumper. Bullock struggles to string together multiple dribbles in line to the rim, but he had a tendency to take two dribbles and stop. This doesn't sound good, but he found a surprising amount of cutters doing this, showing off a nice passing ability. It seemed every time he did this he would set up a teammate with a nice feed. Now his assist numbers weren't impressive (only 2 per 40 minutes pace adjusted), but that isn't because he isn't a smart and good passer. Thats due to the fact that he struggles to create and he also rarely passes while dribbling. He always has to gather himself, partly because he can dribble with his head down. When he is looking up though, he does a great job of seeing the floor.

Bullock will never be a great dribbler, its too much to ask at this point, but he can become good enough to take advantage of his court vision and basketball IQ. Also, he showed a solid mid-range game and floater in high school and I would expect him to start showing these skills more next year. Last year he showed a very small sample of these moves, and also a pull up jumper that looked as efficient as his spot up jumper. He can go a few dribbles to his right and pull up without a problem, but don't expect him to go into isolation mode to create room for a shot.

This stuff isn't necessarily a death sentence in the NBA. Not everyone needs to be a shot creator. Bullock   does create many second chance opportunities just by rebounding the ball and hustling for loose balls. He has already shown he knows how to be a secondary type player and he showed the willingness to do it. Bullock has good intangibles and solid character. He's a guy who likes to laugh and joke around, although he may innocently slip up from time to time like when he said Coach K looks like a rat.

Reggie fit in quite well with his teammates and enjoyed every minute of it

His shooting is something Bullock will have to continue to show consistency with. His freshman year, he shot under 30% from 3 and 13-23 from the line. However, nobody was surprised when Bullock shot 38% from 3 last year with more attempts, and upped his free throw shooting to 72%. Bullock is more of the 38% shooter for sure and he has deep range and nice form on his shot as well. His free throws are bad, but he hardly gets to the line to begin with. That could be why he has never been a good foul shooter as last year he went to the line 0.8 times per game! That was by far the worst mark among rotational wings in college basketball (20+ minutes a game). Even Deividas Dulkys more than doubled that rate.

His lack of ball handling skills really pigeon hole him into the small forward spot - he is not a shooting guard by any stretch of the imagination. On defense though, Bullock has been asked to guard virtually every position except center and has done so successfully. He has a nice frame and a 6'8.5'' wingspan, but his tenacity and effort is what really sets him apart. He pressures the ball and takes away 3-pt chances and has good, but not elite lateral quickness. Bullock isn't going to be a lockdown defender, but he is a very good defender in college basketball and that should carry over to the next level. He also rebounds the ball well and plays good help defense.

Overall, Bullock is what he is. I think a lot of people are expecting that Bullock will take a big leap this year and become more of a scorer. His points are obviously going to go up, but it will be PJ Hairston who becomes the go-to scorer on the wing - not Bullock. Hairston is a lot more of a natural shot creator while Bullock can help out, while still concentrating on doing the little things. If you have high expectations for Bullock this year, you may end up disappointed, resulting in you downing him as a prospect. But if you accept what he is and focus on what he does well, you will see why he can be a nice role player in the NBA. Bullock doesn't have star potential and may not even be a sure fire first rounder, but as a basketball player, he is someone that you wouldn't mind having in your rotation.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Scouting Report: CJ Leslie

Height: 6'8.5''
Wingspan: 7'1.5''
Weight: 198lbs
Bday: 6/25/91

Team: North Carolina State
Class of 2014

Leslie had a rough freshman year and it showed in his body language

It seems like we have been waiting forever for CJ Leslie to turn into the dominating force he has the potential to be, but in reality, he is just coming off of his sophomore season. And if you look at the numbers during the final stretch, Leslie might have quietly already become the polarizing star we hoped for.

For Leslie, it has been a roller coaster ride. Tim Crothers did an excellent job providing a window into the mind and heart of Leslie a few days ago for SI while explaining the ups and downs of his stay in Raleigh. No need to rehash that article, but while the overall conclusion was that CJ (or Calvin) has matured a great deal since his freshman year, there still are some worrisome concerns about his character.

First off, Leslie isn't even a year removed from his "old self". The player who would sulk during practices, play selfish basketball, give up and down effort, and distance himself from those around him. The guy who didn't show up to his very first class of college. The CJ who Mark Gottfried aimed to change. He sought out to improve his body language, engage him in the game, and hold him accountable for his level of play.

Leslie was a different player at the second half of last year, helping lead the Pack to the NCAA tournament

Gottfried has been able to turn Leslie around, but it hasn't been an overnight process. You can tell Leslie is a lot more comfortable now at NC State, which is the reason he cites in coming back for his junior year. He likes where he is at now. He calls North Carolina State his "comfort zone". But what happens when he has to go to the next level? If he gets a coach he doesn't like? If things aren't going good for him? It is hard to say that he wouldn't revert back to the old CJ Leslie. In the NBA, he is going to be expected to practice hard, play games with energy, and be consistent for 82 games. Nobody will be holding his hand. Its a concern that NBA personnel will have to pry at during the interview process and this upcoming season.

At the end of last season though, everything was going good for NC State and himself. This year you can expect the same with a team that is one of the favorites to win the ACC. This year won't answer some of the questions about his ability to handle adversity and play hard at all times.

The way he performed at the end of last year though, averaging 18.3 points and 9 rebounds per game, showed what his potential is all about. CJ Leslie may be the best athlete in college basketball. He's a ridiculous leaper, very long and rangy, and has great coordination for a man his size.

His game thrives in transition. He runs the court very well for easy baskets and can also handle it coast to coast himself. He patterns his game after Kevin Garnett and offensively, there are a lot of similarities.

His form certainly needs some refining, but notice the KG-esque lean

He also operates in the halfcourt like his idol. He likes to get the ball around the foul line extended area and face up like a guard. He can go in isolation mode from this area, using risky crossovers in crowded areas to create room, in effort to get to the hoop or shoot a jumper. In this respect, CJ Leslie makes things too difficult for himself as the added flare is not necessary. Leslie is such a special athlete that his first step and explosiveness is enough to get by college power forwards. There is no need to overdribble. He also makes his shots more difficult. He has plenty of size and lift on his jumper that he can get if off over anyone, yet he chooses to crossover defenders and shoot off balance fadeaways way too much. He takes too many long 2-pters in general, but getting rid of the habit to fadeaway like KG does, should make him more efficient.

Efficiency is one area that Leslie can struggle from. He doesn't have the best shot selection or a power post game inside. His only post moves rely on his quickness. He shot 43% from the field his freshman year but did a great job getting above 50% last season (one thing he did was cut out nearly 2/3rds of his 3-pt attempts from the year before). And in his last 11 games, he was even better. Still,  when projecting him to the NBA, he needs a more defined offensive skillset. He can't rely on long jumpers and pure athleticism around the rim completely. It has been shown time and time again to be a death sentence for athletic power forwards. Also, his turnovers have not improved at all. Leslie tries to make too many plays and can be wild with his dribble. Finding a in-between game would be a great help. Right now he has the long jumper and the drive to the hoop. A little one handed floater or hook shot would make him very tough to defend.

Leslie getting low and exercising his tremendous first step

For a big man, Leslie is very slithery. He can turn corners and drive by defenders while slipping through small cracks in the defense. He does a good job of using his body and absorbing contact as well. He shows excellent body control at the rim, much more control than he shows on drives, and gets a lot of "and-1" opportunities. His athleticism is obvious a big key in his ability to finish, but he doesn't strictly rely on that.

His footwork leaves a lot to be desired and he travels way too much, but he does have one reliable basic move in the post. He likes to get deep position and quickly turn the corner over his left shoulder and finish with a reverse lay-up. Its simple, yet very effective. Farther away from the hoop near the baseline Leslie can start facing up and then use a pump fake or spin move to get close to the hoop with his back towards the basket. From there, he is pretty much money.

In his sophomore season, Gottfried gave Leslie a lot more freedom than he had in Lowe's offense. Leslie wasn't just a transition and putback guy anymore, he was able to create his own offense and he responded positively. Gottfried and Leslie are developing a good relationship. You could see Leslie get more and more confident in his skills as the season went on, ultimately having the mindset that nobody could stop him. And for the most part, that was true. In those last 11 games, he scored 14 or more points 10 times.

His offensive game needs a lot of refining, toning down, reshaping, and improvement but he has the tools to work with. He can develop a more consistent jumper. He can add some counter moves and more strength to his post game. He can pick his spots better. He can do all of this stuff, but its going to take a lot of work and a good coach. Leslie will never be the smartest player on offense, but he can eventually be good scorer and show decent efficiency.

Defensively, he needs similar work. He puts himself in bad position to defend the post by gambling for steals on entry passes. He trusts his ability to get a steal more than his ability to get a stop defending man to man in the post. He also stands too upright, shows wavering effort, and poor fundamentals. With more consistent effort, Leslie can be a solid defender. He definitely can make big time plays out that end - thanks to block shots, steals, and the ability to come up with the ball and start the break himself. He's a playmaker on the defense end more than he is a reliable man to man defender.

Overall, Leslie possessing insane physical gifts that give him the ability to dominate college competition even without a polished game. He has great lateral quickness, is a quick and explosive leaper, and runs the court as well as anyone. He is a good straight line driver even though his handles are shaky when trying to do anything more than that, which prohibits him from starting his drives out by the 3-pt line. His shot is still a work in progress, but his tendency to take terrible jumpers his freshman year was toned down to the point where he became more consistent and focused more on his post game.

Moving forward, you can expect Leslie to continue to "wow" you while leaving you wanting more. His character, playing style, effort level, and work ethic will all be obstacles in that could prevent him from going in the lottery. This season Leslie's goals should be to play with 100% effort on defense, cut down his turnovers, and expand his post game. That will be his best shot in getting him to the lottery.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Scouting Report: Phil Pressey

Height: 6'0''
Wingspan: 6'3''
Weight: 178lbs
Bday: 2/17/91
Team: Missouri
Class of 2014

A young Pressey rocking a different looking. Truly defining how to "get low"

Coming into his sophomore season at Missouri, Pressey had full control of the point guard position and his game in almost every statistical category. His shooting from all areas of the floor improved, his assists and rebounds went up, he cut down the turnovers and fouls, and nearly doubled his attempts at the free throw line. Most importantly, Pressey was the leader for one of the best teams in a country and a team that was known for unselfishness and excellent chemistry. Pressey had great teammates around him, but he embodied all positive characteristics and did a great job making plays for the other three guards on the court.

Let's ignore Pressey's size at first and examine his college game. Right now, he may be the most talented returning college basketball player and he's still only going to be a junior. It is high praise, but very much earned. Pressey played entire games last year where he was virtually perfect. He defended the entire court, made terrific passes, hit his jumpers, and controlled the tempo. Lots of times it seemed like he could do whatever he wanted out there.

His unselfish play and understanding of the pick and roll offense are two things that bode well for him when projecting his NBA future. Pressey always looks pass first. He can dominate a game without taking a shot and will if you let him. He takes advantage of Mizzou's uptempo offense for assists, but also know how to operate in the halfcourt. In the pick and roll offense, he is deadly. He is so small that he is able to split defenders and he changes speeds perfectly. He can move around into the lane at half speed, just because of the threat of his blow-by potential. He has a good feel for where defenders are playing him and uses his small frame as well as he can when he has a defender on his back after driving off a pick. When he is doing his damage in the lane, he is almost always under control. The only issue with Pressey in the pick and roll is his own ability to finish.
Pressey displaying a NBA "arm bar"

Pressey shot just under 43% from the floor last year, which was actually up from his freshman number of  38.7%. While Pressey has a smooth stroke in the mid-range area, his 2-pt percentage is hurt by his play amongst bigs. Pressey takes a lot of difficult shots inside thanks to his shortcomings in the height department. Instead of using a classic floater, Pressey ends up in tough spots where he is 10 feet away from the hoop and trying to push the ball to the rim with a defender on his inside. He is a crafty guy and a great athlete, but he isn't very explosive. Not in a Nate Robinson kind of way where you are going to see him dunking. He's more along the lines of a DJ Augustin type athlete. He's going to have to bulk up quite a bit so he can deal with contact and develop a more reliable floater. I know the floater should be no problem for a guy with his touch, he just needs to do a better job of positioning himself inside.

In transition, Pressey normally has no problem finishing. When he gets rolling to the basket, he is way too quick for defenders to be able to set their feet and draw a charge or block his shot without fouling. Most of his free throw attempts come off these situations. Pressey's passing is also a big factor here as he is one of the best at delivering good passes to his teammates on the run. Pressey is great in transition and has had plenty of practice in these situations at Missouri.

Shooting wise, I think he is better than the numbers say he was. He has deep range and is able to pull up from anywhere on the court. He can shoot off the dribble and create enough space to shoot the ball. He reminds me a bit of Isaiah Thomas from Washington with the way he can size up his defenders from the top of the key or shoot off the pick and roll. Pressey was shooting 28% from 3-pt range last year on February 15th, but finished the season on a 22-40 hot streak where he displayed complete confidence in his shot.

Another thing to note is Pressey's crossover which is absolutely ridiculous. Its a video game crossover that can take him 5 feet in any direction in a heartbeat. Overall, he does a great job changing directions and he completely dices up defenses. As I said before, Pressey looks unstoppable a lot of times in the college game. In terms of everything he can control, not much more can be asked of him.

Before we touch on his defense, we have to acknowledge his size now. Pressey was measured at 6 ft tall in shoes with just a 6'3'' wingspan at the 2012 Deron Williams Skills Camp. The year before, he was under 6 feet with just a 6'1 wingspan. The numbers can vary a bit. Either way he is really undersized, but a 6'1 wingspan is particularly troublesome. Trey Burke is around the same height as Pressey, but Burke has a better frame and a few extra inches on his wingspan. That is the reason why Burke is considered a better prospect.

Nobody can say Pressey doesn't lay it all on the line. There are countless hustle pics off Pressey on Google Images

In terms of lateral quickness, Pressey has it and he's very agile to boot. Defensively, he really turned it up at the end of the year and played good defense against the likes of Pierre Jackson, Myck Kabongo, and Tyshawn Taylor. He has great closing speed, defends out to halfcourt, and does a good job closing passing lanes and getting steals. Pressey isn't a gambler perse, but can bait the opposition into throwing passes. He does a great job chasing his man around screens and getting interceptions there. He can be bullied and shot over, but Pressey has plenty of heart and pride on defense. Too much to be a complete non-factor.

I doubted Isaiah Thomas last year who had similar measurables last year and he has since proven me wrong. I'm still not sure how good of a player Thomas really is as he put up those numbers of the Kings and I didn't get a chance to watch him much, but he definitely is an NBA player. And I can say with certainty that Pressey as a sophomore was a better played than Thomas was as a senior in college. Pressey has always been a natural point guard while Thomas was much more of a scoring guard until the second half of his senior year.

One thing Thomas did well that Pressey can mimic is the pick and roll game. Thomas had the deep jumper to keep defenses honest as well and similarly used screens to get into the lane. They both show a lot of heart, character, and love for the game. You can never count out players with the kind of work ethics they possess. One area where Thomas has the advantage is his build, where he is a bit stronger. Thomas was a better finisher at the rim because of that and slightly better explosiveness. Still, Thomas never ran the point like Pressey can.

Pressey is the kind of player a general manager or coach can fall in love with. A guy who can make a coach feel that despite his size, he can be their point guard and allow the coach to have complete faith in his decision making. He will have detractors that say he isn't worth even a late first round pick, but there will be a at least a few that will look for him in the first round. I'll admit, I could probably be swooned over by Pressey in interviews and group scrimmages. He's been said to be the best point guard at all the camps he's played in, but still doesn't get as much attention due to his size. With a potential player of the year campaign on the horizon, the topic of his size will continue to be the biggest component that needs to be figured out in his transition to the NBA. He has everything else working for him.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Scouting Report: Ray McCallum

Height: 6'2''
Weight: 190lbs
Wingspan: 6'3''
BDay: 6/12/91

Team: Detroit
Class of 2014

After being named a McDonald's All-American, Ray McCallum decided to go the mid-major route in order to play for his father, who bears his same name. Playing at a smaller school has failed to give McCallum the kind of exposure to generate tons of hype, but make no mistake about it, McCallum has done a great job in his time for the Detroit Titans. He is coming off a first team All-Conference season where he finished strong to earn conference tournament MVP while leading his team to the NCAA tournament. This year, he should be the favorite to take home Horizon League Player of the Year honors.

While only completing two years so far, McCallum appears to have already mastered the college game. No he isn't dominating, but he generally has complete control of the game and handles his job of point guard in a professional matter. He is a vocal leader for the Titans as well as leading by example, exuding tremendous effort on both the offensive and defensive ends of the court.

Offensively, McCallum has a good feel for the game and executes a lot of his offense out of the pick and roll. The majority of his team's possessions are ran out of this set which is good practice for a point guard who is looking to make the jump to the NBA. In pick and rolls, McCallum is very effective driving to the hoop - to either side - and shows off a nice crossover and steady ball handling skills. While not a terrific athlete, McCallum is quick and able to break down defenders and is surprisingly strong around the rim. He does a good job of changing speeds, splitting defenders, and has a sneaky quick burst. Once he gets going, he can weave through the lane. His craftiness between the 3-pt arc and the lane isn't amongst the elite, but it is a good compliment to his first step and finishing ability. He is an explosive leaper with a good frame to handle contact. While he has a short wingspan (6'3''), he does a great job of finishing plays in a number of different ways. In this matter, his game is very advanced. He shows off the Euro step, pump fakes, up and unders, scoop name it, McCallum has incorporated it into his game. He has the looks of a guy who will be able to score in the lane in the NBA, despite his short limbs.

One thing that is admirable about McCallum is that he doesn't get a lot of easy baskets. He earns his baskets in the halfcourt setting by getting to the hoop. He doesn't score much of threes and from the games I saw, his team didn't run as much as the year before (I could be wrong about that, but regardless, McCallum is one of the better halfcourt point guards Ive evaluated).

As a point guard, McCallum has the leadership ability down pact. He is also unselfish, although he does have to do more creating at the mid-major level. At the Adidas Nations though, he reportedly played very unselfishly which is no surprise. His dad was a big time scorer, but his son has more qualities of a son of a coach rather than a son of an elite scorer. When McCallum has the ball in his hands, there is a sense of calm. He is a good ball handler and runs the team like its his own. He takes good care of the ball, and did an even better job of that in his sophomore year despite increased work load. He also shown noticeable improvement in other areas of his game such as shooting and halfcourt offense which is a good sign of a strong work ethic.

As a passer, McCallum has a high basketball IQ and understanding of the game, but has some work to do. He isn't a special creator at this point, but there is no question that he is a point guard. At this level, McCallum's passing may suffer due to the fact that his teammates can't handle some of his bullet passes. Its up to a point guard to put his teammates in positions where they know they can make a play though, but I do expect McCallum to look like a better passer at the next level.

McCallum is a streaky shooter who uses too much wrist action on his jumper. He made the same amount of threes per game as his freshman year, but shot more than one more per game, bringing his 3-pt average down to 24% his sophomore season. His game doesn't revolve around his shot at all though, and     I believe he can get away with just being an average shooter. The good news is his free throw percentage went up to 76%, which is important considering his game is based on penetration. He shows flashes of a mid-range jumper and can make some unorthodox shots as well, which is a good sign. Once inside the 3-pt lines, McCallum is a gamer who has a good understanding of finding a way to get a quality shot off.

Defensively, McCallum is terrific at the college level. He plays with great intensity, pressures the ball, and makes sure everyone else is playing up to par as well. He shows solid awareness and does a good job on the glass. His length is below average, but he has good lateral quickness and gets a decent amount of steals for a player who stays at home on defense. He is also able to be physical and definitely knows the importance of defense. His dad has to be proud of the way his son plays. He is well-coached.

McCallum's physical profile has drawn some concerns, mainly to his already mentioned 6'3'' wingspan. Looking at DraftExpress's measurement history tool, guys who have similar measurements (height, weight, wingspan) to McCallum are players like Will Conroy, Jordan Taylor, Scott Machado, and Jeremy Lin. With McCallum's good lateral quickness, leaping ability, and good frame I don't think this will be a huge factor. He definitely would be a better prospect with a 6'9'' wingspan, but its not a deal breaker. He has better physical attributes than all the players listed above and also still has room to grow strength wise which I think he will. Ultimately, I think McCallum can be one of the more physically tough point guards in the NBA.

Anyway, there are successful point guards who had similar measurements but lacked a solid frame (McCallum weighed in at 190lb this summer at the Deron Williams camp, up 3 pounds from last year). Jordan Farmar, Darren Collison, Luke Ridnour, and Jameer Nelson all boast less then attractive physical specs.

In terms of draft stock, McCallum falls into a group of 4-5 point guards who could go anywhere from mid-first to the second round. I think he looks like a solid first rounder right now and should end of declaring. He doesn't have much more to gain from college as he already plays with the maturity of a senior and a new voice other than his father could further progress his game. Its been a special time for father and son at Detroit, but McCallum is ready to be pushed into a more uncomfortable atmosphere and take on his next challenge.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Scouting Report: Isaiah Canaan

Height: 6'1''
Weight: 199lbs
Wingspan: 6'4''
BDay: 5/2/1991

Team: Murray State
Class of 2013

Isaiah Canaan has been busy all summer, going from skill camp to skill camp and ending his summer tour at the Adidas Nations. While he received some negative reviews from scouts, just the fact that Canaan is in the position he is should be considered a Cinderella story.

Canaan dealth with hurricane Katrina first hand and ended up lightly recruited, choosing to head north and play for OVC member Murray State. At under 6 feet tall and not exceptionally athletic, Canaan is the type of player who can easily slip through the cracks of the big time schools. Falling to Murray State has turned out to be much more of a blessing than a curse for Canaan however.

For one, Canaan has been able to put the Racers on the map. They were already a competitive school, but with Canaan at the helm they have become a force to be reckon with - outlasting the entire NCAA in consecutive wins to start the season. Canaan's ultra-competitiveness, heart, and determination to prove everyone wrong has been the driving force behind the Racer's success.

Canaan is a point guard, but mainly in terms of bringing the ball up. When the ball is in hands though, make no mistake that he is looking to score. Canaan is an attacker. The defense always has to be aware of him as he can pull up from anywhere on the court or barrel his way into the lane.

The biggest and most translatable attribute of his game is definitely his shooting. He has a super quick shot and more than half of his shot attempts were from behind the arc. His range is unlimited and he is comfortable with shooting off the dribble or in spot up situations.

He does very well in pick and roll situations, something that he will also have a chance to do in the NBA. His confidence and aggressiveness forces you to be ready for a 3-pt attempt around picks, but Canaan also drives to the rim without hesitation. He is very good with both hands and has a good crossover to boot. His strong frame allows him to get into the lane and handle contact, although he still struggles finishing amongst the bigs.

His struggle to finish is a major concern that goes back to his small vertical stature. At only 6 feet and lacking vertical explosion, Canaan needs to find ways to aid his scoring around the rim. Right now he just isn't shifty or crafty enough. He takes too much contact since he can't move his body well enough and sees his shot blocked too many times.

While Canaan thrives in the pick and roll game, it is strictly due to his scoring prowess. The combination of his shooting, driving, and confidence is lethal at this level, but he rarely creates for teammates out of the set. Canaan has acknowledged this summer that he needs to do a better job changing speeds, as he was told by Deron Williams and Chris Paul, and that is certainly part of the problem. More so, though, is his mentality. Canaan has been a scorer all his life and has never been a pass first guy. Even at the Adidas Nations, where he was surrounded by talent, Canaan looked awful in the role of playmaker. He had 3 assists to 19 turnovers and from what I heard, the numbers didn't lie.

Having one of the worst camps out of all college players have put a damper on his first round buzz. It is looking more and more like Canaan is an undersized scorer who will have a real big jump to make if he wants to play point guard. There could be a role for a terrific shooter like Canaan who fights and plays with great confidence. Shooting is valued and when guys like Andrew Goudelock can make it, Canaan can as well.

Athletically, we know he is short. What he does offer is great strength - he has big calves and a strong upper body. He also has a decent wingspan that does help compensate for his height a bit. In terms of speed and quickness, Canaan is nothing special, but with his good ball handling skills, he is able to make quick and speedy moves. His crossover helps him change directions very quick and he doesn't get out of control as much as you would except. Canaan is an average leaper and his lateral quickness is average as well. Defensively, I do think he plays with good intensity and awareness. He can be a best when he wants to, but the lateral quickness does limit his effectiveness. He hasn't faced many big named point guards in college and the fact that he has struggled against good summer competition (many younger than him) is worrisome.

One more thing I should mention is his mid-range game, which has shown signs of being good. His pure scoring instincts are present here, but the lack of changing speeds presents him from consistently getting good looks from this range. At this point, Canaan really doesn't need a great mid-range game, but it will be important in the NBA.

Canaan can find a spot in the NBA. This summer has hurt him, but watching tape, I saw one of the best shooters in the country and a guy with a chip on his shoulder. He is a competitor, a winner, and someone who will continue to work hard for your team. He doesn't possess much upside, even if he miraculously gained point guard skills (which would put him in the Jameer Nelson range), but he could be a nice combination of an Andrew Goudelock and Charles Jenkins. Thats a high second round pick type, not a first rounder.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Comparing Robert Covington to Danny Granger

I wanted to give a scouting report of Covington and the best way to truly access his game in my opinion is to compare him against Granger, who reminds me a ton of Covington. Using DraftExpress's college scouting report of Granger, I'll breakdown how they are similar and also the differences that could prevent Covington from achieving the same success.
"Granger has a prototypical body for an NBA small forward. He has good size and strength at 6-8, 225 pounds, a solid wingspan and very solid athletic ability. He is smart and smooth, but very physical, and has fantastic footwork to go along with an excellent (and very quick) vertical leap."
Robert Covington came out of high school at a paltry 190 pounds but has gained 30 pounds in the last three season, bringing him up to 225 pounds. His frame doesn't look much different than Granger's. Both of them are built really solid and by the time Covington is drafted, he should have no problem being near Granger's combine weight. Covington is also listed at 6'9'', slightly taller than Granger and possesses a nice wingspan. I'd consider both to be similar athletes - very solid and smooth yet not freakish. But their combination of size, athleticism, and coordination make them a rare catch.

Granger might have been more physical, as he was more of a post player in his first few seasons before transferring to New Mexico State, but Covington is no softy. He never hesitates to put a body on someone. Definitely no concern there at small forward - he is above average if anything. He also has good footwork from the perimeter, threatening the offense with multiple potential moves with the ball. Again, his footwork doesn't touch Granger's in the post as Covington doesn't operate from the post much, but thats not completely relevant when discussing small forwards.

Covington is a quick leaper as well and he averaged 1.7 blocks per 40 minutes (pace adjusted as always) to prove it. In Granger's junior season, he had 1.8 rejections per game.
"What makes Granger an especially intriguing player for playoff teams who are picking in the 2nd half of the 1st round (15-30) is the fact that he is so versatile. He can score from anywhere on the floor, create his own shot, defend, rebound, block shots, come up with steals, and pass very well."
I could have very easily wrote that last quote word for word while switching Granger for Covington. Versatility is the name of both of their games. The are stat sheet stuffers - guys who can average 2 steals and blocks a game while getting rebounds and covering both perimeter and post players. Covington has no problem getting his shot up anywhere on the court, possessing a good crossover and the balance to rise and shoot off the dribble. He is a very smooth shooter who can hit the mid-range jumper and come off screens to hit 3s. He also can drive and finish at the hoop.
"Granger is a team player, he's extremely competitive and unselfish and only cares about one thing, and that's winning games. He had numerous opportunities to pad his stats and show off for the many NBA scouts who have made the trip to Albuquerque this year, but has shown absolutely no interest in doing so. He has a good court demeanor and plays the game calm, but very confident. In terms of character everyone agrees that Granger is the type of player and person an NBA team can feel comfortable investing money in. He's very smart on and off the court. Granger does not take many bad shots, which is especially impressive if you consider that his team usually needs him to score in bundles to win. Most star players who play for smaller schools don't shoot a great percentage from the field, but Granger is sitting at a very solid 53% on the year."
 Covington has been able to lead Tennessee State to their first winning season since 1995-96 and their first 20 win season in 20 years. If it wasn't for Murray State's big season, they would have been dancing in March. Covington has been a big part in turning around an abysmal program. He has definitely proven he is a winner. In terms of unselfishness, that fits Covington as well. In fact, it would be nice if he was more aggressive. He doesn't force anything or show off to scouts either. In the three games against Murray State, which were the most attended by NBA personnel, Covington shot above 50% in each of them. He always takes good shots and plays with a similar demeanor as Granger. As a fellow star player at a small school, Covington joins Granger on the rare list of players that shoot a good percentage from the field - shooting 53% as well. How about that?
"He is a very good passer with nice court vision and a knack for putting the ball exactly where his teammates like it, especially when it comes to feeding the post. He prefers to make the simple pass, but can also throw up good lob passes for the alleyoop dunk. At times he can be a little too unselfish even, making the extra pass when his team would clearly benefit from him trying to use his skills to take over the game. This is a borderline strength/weakness on the NBA level, though, especially considering what his role on the floor will be."
Here I would say there is a bit of a discrepancy. Covington's passing isn't anything Id write home about. He's a solid passer, but from what Ive seen, not to the extend that DraftExpress described Granger. His unselfishness can be a positive in the same way Granger's is in the NBA, though. Makes him a good complimentary wing.
"Defensively, his team plays a lot of zone, but he shows excellent potential in this area in the rare opportunity he gets to guard the other team's star player. New Mexico wisely saves his energy for the offensive end where they need him more, and therefore can not afford to get in foul trouble either. When he does get to play the type of tough man to man defense he seems to enjoy, though, he really shines. His combination of strength, length, athletic ability, intensity, determination and excellent footwork give him the potential to be a very good defender on the NBA level once he is fully unleashed. These same skills along with his good hands and the ability to elevate quickly off the floor also make him a very good rebounder as well, pulling down nine rebounds or more 17 times so far this season. He is also a terrific shotblocker on the college level thanks to his wingspan and excellent leaping ability, but also has very nice timing to really intimidate and alter shots at the rim. He rotates well and possesses a solid understanding of where to place himself in a zone defense, while also showing good leadership skills in directing his teammates on this side of the floor. He anticipates well and knows how to get in the passing lanes, coming up with many steals and igniting the fast break."
Covington faces the same problem of playing a lot of zone, but at times in big games, such as against Murray State, he was the guy they trusted to cover Isaiah Canaan. He definitely has a good feel on the defensive end and makes a lot of plays happen and his versatility is never a negative. He's a great college defender who should be a fine perimeter defender in the NBA. While Granger was raved about in this section defensively, he never became an elite defender so I would say they are in the same wavelength here. Granger's physical tools are slightly better, but its pretty close across the board.
"Offensively, he has a wide variety of skills he can use to score, although none of them can be considered too polished right now. He likes to use his strength and footwork to back his man down towards the basket, finishing in a variety of ways (spin moves, around the hoop thanks to his wingspan. He can put the ball on the floor and take the ball strong to the basket, finishing with contact if necessary. His range has improved dramatically over the years, a testament to his work ethic, going from hitting 9 threes in his first two seasons at a 24% clip to shooting 44% from behind the arc on over three attempts per game. He has very good mechanics and a high release on his jump shot. He is also pretty solid from the line at 74% and possesses a decent mid-range game."
This is where Covington's more perimeter oriented play in college helps him out. While Granger had the advantage in the post, Covington has had more time to adjust to playing small forward. There has never been a question about Covington's shot, as he is an excellent shooter, especially with his feet set. He is very smooth running around screens and has a quick trigger. Granger's high release is true for Covington as well. For Granger, he quickly turned into this kind of player when he went to the NBA, so while Covington seemingly had the edge in college, I think he'd be happy being able to do the things Granger can do shooting wise in the NBA. And with his range and ability to get his shot off, he should have no problem being a threat from deep. From the free throw line, Covington was slightly better but failed to get to the line as much.

In terms of taking the ball to the hoop, Covington has shown that ability consistently although there are some questions. He is comfortable with taking the ball to the rim, but lacks the ball handling abilities to fully take advantage of it. Right now, he has the confidence and picks his spots well, but improvement is a must. With his size and mid-range game it doesn't need to be great, he just gets the ball stripped to much at this point. He also needs to work on keeping the ball higher and more protected when driving. His left hand isn't far behind his right hand though, as he had no reservations driving either direction.

 Granger's two main weaknesses revolved around his inexperience on the perimeter -
Most of Granger's weaknesses stem from the fact that he was played in the post for most of his collegiate career. His main one is his ball-handling, which will need serious work for him to become a shot-creating threat in the NBA. His left hand is particularly weak, as most everything of what he does off the dribble tends to be with his right. This hurts his slashing ability, as his first step isn't lightning quick as it is.

Granger's perimeter shooting has always been a big concern, but he has worked extremely hard to improve his range and become more consistent in this area. He didn't take a large amount of 3 pointers this year (averaging about 1.5 makes per game) so he will likely have to show that his jump shot is solid in workouts, especially when it comes to shooting off the dribble."
We've touched on these subjects already, but Covington's first step isn't great either. Both did cover some ground on their steps though and could bait the defender with jab steps and the threat of the jumper. Covington may actually have had a better left hand than Granger at this point in time.

Granger became the shooting type and thats where I expect Covington to follow in Granger's footsteps. They took slightly different paths in college as Granger was forced into the post more, but I believe their skillsets ultimately could wind up the same. As you can see in the two pictures, both have a little lean on their jumpers that make it impossible to contest. Being able to get your shot off whenever while being a very high percentage shooter is a recipe for success. Especially when you can fill the stat sheet in other categories as well and play unselfish basketball.

Two small school guys, both wearing number 33, and both were heavily slept on following their junior seasons. I am a firm believer that Covington could surge into the first round like Granger and become a top 20 pick. Becoming an all-star player is a bigger limb to walk out on, but if Covington has a Granger-esque work ethic it is plausible. Either way, Covington is way underrated right now. He is possibly the best senior in the nation.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Scouting Report: Andre Roberson

Height: 6'7''
Weight: 210lbs
Wingspan: 6'11'' (?)
Bday: 12/4/1991

Team: Colorado
Class of 2014

Andre Roberson arrived on campus as an unheralded prospect, a skinny 6'6'' power forward who had shown enough promise to eventually become a college small forward. Playing with Cory Higgins and Alec Burks his freshman year, Roberson didn't have a chance to shoot much but found a way to make a impact on the game with his defense and rebounding. His ability to make his impact felt without the ball put him on the radar and had scouts pegging him for a breakout sophomore campaign with Higgins and Burks headed to the NBA. Roberson's sophomore year showed even more promise although he didn't takeover offensively, and now heading into his junior year, Roberson is expected to make yet another leap. Something he is good at.

Roberson is a tremendous athlete on the court. Since he came into Boulder, his body has improved, and he is now being listed at 6'7'' with a long wingspan to help compensate his shortcomings. He has also put on a good amount of weight to the point where that shouldn't be a huge factor anymore. When watching Roberson, his determination and tenacity combined with the wiry strength he does possess, has been enough to keep him from getting pushed around. Roberson is so active that I am not even sure he stays in one spot long enough for someone to get a body on him.

His activeness around the basket is a lethal combination with his fluid athleticism. He has aggregated those tools to become one of the top rebounders in the country and reminded some scouts of Kawhi Leonard because of it.

In my opinion, Roberson's athleticism is more reminiscent of Hakim Warrick. Leonard was built strong while Warrick and Roberson are more bouncy and fluid. At this point in time, Leonard was a better prospect because of his ball skills. Leonard was a lot easier to project into a small forward role at the next level while Roberson is still very much a tweener on offense.

Roberson's current offense game mainly revolves around put backs, transition opportunities, and straight drives to the hoop. He has shown minimal signs of a post game and his progression as a player makes it appear that he is working towards becoming a small forward in the NBA. He has shown the ability to knock down open jumpers with his feet set, shooting 38% from the 3-pt line, but his shot is very mechanical and rarely forced. His statistics tell a better story of his shot than it actually is. His free throw percentage explains his struggle shooting. Still, he is able to spread the floor.

Roberson wasn't the focal point of the offense even with Burks and Higgins gone and spent equal amount of time on the perimeter as he did setting picks and occupying the paint. Roberson was unable to create his own shots, looking very unnatural shooting of the dribble, but did show good explosion to the basket driving all the way out to the three point line. He is a straight line driver (and very right hand dominant) but has enough body control to put himself in position for a high percentage shot once he gets to the rim. He absorbs contact well and is an all around terrific finisher. He combines the toughness of a big man with the craftiness of a wing once he is at the rim.

Roberson also runs the court very well, looking for every chance possible to get easy buckets. He plays well off the ball and creates a lot of easy dunks at the rim because of it. Every time a shot goes up, Roberson crashes the boards in case of a miss. He has shown a nice touch on tip backs or tipping the ball out to teammates.

While his offense can be a nice complimentary piece since he doesn't need the ball, his defense can be game changing. Roberson is best with freedom, where he can roam off the ball a provide help at the rim. His shotblocking ability is terrific and may be underrated due to the fact that he spends some time covering perimeter players. He is able to block shots with both hands and really makes an art of it. He blocks shots playing straight man defense, helping off the ball, directly at the rim, coming from behind, and is able to block jumpers at the apex of the shot. Because of his shot blocking ability and elite rebounding, I do like Roberson at the power forward.

Roberson has looked fine guarding on the perimeter, but his length is more effective than his lateral quickness. He can be a good wing defender, but I don't think you get the most value out of him by confining him to that one task. He would be best used on defense in a Josh Smith type role.

Roberson has a good amount of potential and the trajectory of his improvements to date should be enough to believe he will continue to get even better, but even without the potential, Roberson brings a lot to the table. He is an elite rebounder, a impact defender, and an above average finisher at the rim. I have some reservations about Roberson becoming a full time small forward, but there is no reason he has to be. He has unique abilities and the best way to utilize him will be in a specialize role. His energy will be perfect off the bench at the beginning of the career and if he grows into more, it is a bonus. If not, you have a borderline starter who plays a brand of basketball you can win with. Roberson has a long way to go offensively as a small forward and will never be a great ball handler, but don't let that distract you from what he can bring to the table. He is easily a first round pick at this point, even without improvement, and Id expect him to be drafted somewhere in the teens on draft night.

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Quick Look At Alec Brown

I have been seeing Alec Brown mentioned as a lottery pick on multiple sites so I wanted to give my thoughts on him real quick. I don't want to do a complete scouting report on him right now because I don't see him as a guy who will declare this season. Brown is way too scrawny at this point in time to be effective in any kind of role at the next level - in Europe or the NBA. Guys who are over 7 feet tall and weight around 215 pounds generally don't have a good track record. 215 poinds isn't a weight you say a guy is skinny and just needs to put on some weight. No, 215 for a 7 footer is a huge problem. If you look at the Draft Express database, it is basically a death sentence. I don't want to close the door on Brown as he does have a good skill set, but he has to put on weight. I am talking about finishing this season up above 230 pounds. And even then, that just provides hope. He still would have a ways to go strength wise before declaring after this season.

I am usually all for guys leaving early if they want to and heading to a pro team where they can make money and practice more often with better coaches and players. But for sticks like Brown, they are so far behind physically that they won't even be able to play down low to work on their games. The lack of strength will prevent them from being able to play their games at all. Sure a pro strength program will help more than in college, but teams don't have a lot of patience nowadays. Unless he was drafted in the first round, which I completely doubt at this point, Brown would have one year to prove himself to a team. Brown would end up bouncing around from team to team, unable to establish himself and ultimately kill his confidence. Coming from a small school and watching him play, Brown can't afford to wait in limbo for a few years with his confidence shot. His confidence has been built off good play, and you can see it increase as he makes baskets, but all of his confidence can be taken away over a year of being beat up in NBA practices with absolutely no hope of countering.

Guys like Alec Brown were sexier 10-15 years ago. There were the Euro movement of tall, skinny, and heavily skilled guys. They phased out after way too many bust. There was also the movement to more physical freak types at center instead of guys who knew how to score to their back to the basket. In the late 1990s, I think we look at Brown and consider him a first rounder. Not anymore. Just look at the centers in the league today.

As I said, I am not going to write off a guy who is only a 20 years old and heading into his junior year in college. But he does not deserve any of the lottery hype so lets temper expectations. If you do happen to catch some games of Brown, you can expect to see a talented player who is somewhat of a unique talent. Rarely do you see guys with the feel and the size that Brown has in the post. Brown has great counter moves and good touch with either hand. He uses the glass, can hook the ball over both shoulders, drive to the hoop, and spin quickly towards the hoop with his back to the basket. He has a very good feel in the post and is able to figure out what is the best move out of his bag of tricks for each situation. He also is a good passer and does a good job feeding the ball into his fellow big, Brenna Cougill. He has a smooth stroke at the free throw line and his success there is reiterated with his ability to stretch the defense by hitting jumpers.

Defensively, it is obviously the strength that hinders him. Cougill, who is a huge body weight-wise, actually covered most of the centers while Brown would cover mid-major power forwards, which in a lot of cases, were undersized PFs who would play on the perimeter. Brown has gotten comfortable out there and moves pretty well laterally. He understands how to play pick and rolls as well so he could become a good pick and roll defender. He does a good job helping off the ball and has fairly quick hands. He blocks shots at a good rate, but nothing that you wouldn't expect from an able bodied 7 footer playing against lower level competition. I wouldn't call the guy a rim protector or much of an imposing threat. Adding weight would help for sure, but he has below average explosiveness even without added weight holding him down.

The status quo on Brown for me isn't going to change anytime soon. I like his offensive game, but its a moot point at his current physical stature. We will see how his body looks heading into this season, but a ten pound gain isn't going to garner my attention. The guy is weak, skinny or not. He isn't a wiry strength kind of guy who also has toughness and refuses to be pushed around. Brown gets thrown around like a rag doll and has a long way to go.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Scouting Report: Adonis Thomas

Height: 6'6''
Weight: 240lbs
Wingspan: 7'0''
Bday: 3/25/1993

Team: Memphis
Class of 2015

Adonis Thomas came to Memphis as a top 10 recruit in the nation even though he was seen as a guy stuck between the 3 and the 4. He chose to stay local and was willing to accept whatever role Memphis threw him into. The role for his freshman season was power forward. Thomas was able to put on over 20 pounds prior to the season to prepare for the season, going from a respectable 207 pounds to a beastly 230 pounds in order to handle battling inside with taller foes. Injuries took away the majority of his in conference season, but he is back for his sophomore year to prove he can produce for an entire season. He never did get a chance last year to perform consistently so this is a big year for him. With Shaq Goodwin coming in and Witherspoon and Will Barton off to pursue pro careers, Thomas should become more of a perimeter player this season.

Thomas is the kind of player that is able to play many different roles and positions for a ball club. You can say that about a handful of players, but it is rare to see a player that is able AND willing. Even more rare when you are looking at a McDonald's All-American player. The intangibles for Thomas, who is also a great student, defines Thomas as a player. He is a great character guy, works hard, and is willing to do all the little things to help his team win.

His freshman year was a testament to everything high school scouts raved about. Thomas battled consistently inside at power forward. He relished the role and played as much like a true power forward as he could. He battled in the post, set screens for the guards, and was always sure to box his man out. He used his strength and outstanding base on defense to handle other big men in the post.

On offense, Thomas stays in his lane. He lets the game come to him, but when he gets the ball in the mid-range area, he looks to attack. The mid-range game is his bread and butter right now. He has improved his mid-range jumper to a point where it is a weapon. His shot can be a little flat at times, but it looks for the most part. His jumper is able to open up room for the drive, although with his great first step, it was rare that forwards could stay in front of him anyway.

When driving, Thomas stayed under control and was able to shift his body just enough to avoid picking up charges. He showed advanced footwork - showing off a good feel for the Euro-step - and ability to maneuver in traffic. His great first step and subsequent dribbles combined with his frame and steady handles makes him a force attacking from mid-range - and Thomas knows this. He loves the face-up drive from 15 feet in. The question that has to be asked is how Thomas can adapt doing similar moves from the perimeter, where his shiftiness will need to go from good enough to above average.

Around the rim, Thomas's explosiveness and strength aid him yet again. But he doesn't strictly rely on that. He can hook the ball over his outside shoulder and also does a great job of using the rim to protect the ball. Just as with his dribble, Thomas isn't super fancy, but he has just enough creativeness to get the job done effectively.

Overall, his mid-range game is where he is most comfortable at right now and he has no problem staying within 15 feet while the guards dance around the perimeter. He constantly works to get post position and sneak into passing lanes to receive the ball. He works so hard no matter what - a lot of times Thomas didn't get a lot of touches but there was never a drop off in his play or any discontent expressed with his body language. While Thomas is an aggressive attacker in mid-range, he is a very unselfish player in the sense that he will always do whatever his team needs him to do. There is no "I" in Thomas's play.

His post game also has potential and he is received valuable experience last year as one of Memphis' "go-to post threats". I use that term very loosely as Memphis runs more like an AAU team, but Thomas still got a chance to focus on his back to the basket game. When facing away from the hoop, Thomas uses his frame to carve out room inside and presents a good target to throw to. His long arms are able to retrieve any pass within his range. You can tell Thomas enjoyed posting up in high school because he already has some decent post moves for a future NBA small forward. This part of his game should develop to a point where it is worth mentioning even as a perimeter player. Thomas will be one of the dying bread of NBA perimeter players who can work out of the post. While his post game isn't deadly, the fact that he has one is a plus.

Offensively, Thomas plays more like a power forward than small forward. At least, last year he did. He doesn't create much offense for him or other teammates. He can move the ball, but his negative A/TO reflects the way he played. Thomas stays in his zone and will take his shot if he is within his comfort zone (mid-range), but on the perimeter he rarely looks to make a play. He has shown continued improvement in his 3-pt shooting and it looks like that can actually turn into a strength down the road.

The fact that Thomas has a tweener offensive game isn't really worrisome. On offense, players can be interchangeable and versatility should be viewed as a good thing. Tweeners are only a problem when they are in between positions on defense. And that is not the case with Thomas.

With his 7-ft wingspan, excellent motor, strength, good awareness, and solid lateral quickness Thomas has everything it takes to defend small forwards at a plus level and perhaps even at an All-Defensive level. He is a pest on the ball and does a great job staying low. He has no problem fighting through screens but his versatility allows him to switch on screens if needed. He can legitimately guard three positions on the court. He also isn't much of a risk taker. Thomas stays in his own lane and focuses on stopping his man. That is not to say he lacks awareness - he has a good feel on the defensive end and provides help defense - it just means he doesn't gamble. That can partially explain his low steal and block numbers. The zone that Memphis employed also had a good deal to do with it. Regardless, Thomas doesn't appear to be a big threat blocking shots and it would be nice to see his steal/block numbers reflect his athleticism a bit more next season.

The same thing can be true for his rebounding. Thomas pulled down only 5.2 rebounds per 40 minutes, while his ultra skinny teammate, Will Barton, had 8.8 per game credited to his name. This can draw questions about his hands (he has strong hands but are they soft?), but I think part of it can be attributed to his unselfishness. Thomas often would tip rebounds to his teammates. Still, the numbers he put up are a little surprising for the kind of player he is. A super athletic player who played inside, had great strength, boxed out on each shot, and never took a play off couldnt put up good rebounding numbers?I would have expected him to over 10 rebounds per 40 minutes at the power forward position. In the end though, I doubt poor rebounding is going to be a weakness used against him come draft time. His job in the NBA will be to keep his opposing player from hitting the offensive glass and with his determination to box out, he will have no problem getting that done.

When projecting Thomas to the future, there is reason to believe he has a very high ceiling. To me though, he is actually one of the safest picks in the lottery while not possessing NBA First Team potential. I just don't ever see him being a prolific scorer from a skill standpoint or from an attitude standpoint. Think Marvin Williams. They are different players, but both are very unselfish, great character guys, who played a smaller role in college but their tools project them to be stars in the NBA. In reality, they played smaller roles because that is their style and neither of them were much of shot creators. Thomas is comfortable playing a role. Shot creating can be improved, but rarely do players make drastic improvements after they are drafted.

Still with what Thomas gives you, you are looking at a good to a great starter who can be somewhat of a super role player. He does all the little things and has no problem doing them. He has great character and great work ethic. He is good in transition. He is versatile. He can space the floor. He is a very smart player and a potential stopper on defense. He is a winner and his game translates well to games played in May and June. He is a guy you draft, plus him in at the wing, and don't ever worry about him again. While he doesn't make his teammates better with his creating ability, he makes the TEAM better with everything else he can do. I see Thomas as a mid to late lottery pick this year.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Scouting Report: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

Height: 6'6''
Weight: 185lbs
Wingspan: 6'5.5''
Bday: 2/18/1993

Team: Georgia
Class of 2015

Caldwell-Pope had high expectations on his shoulders being the first McDonald's All-American to head to Athens since Carlos Strong in 1992, and while he was unable to will them to a winning season, he did show enough to get him into the NBA draft discussion. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope's freshman season overall was a successful one, as he met the expectations of a top 20 recruit. He was one of their best players and lead the team in minutes played and steals, while finishing second on the team in point and rebounding.

The first thing I want to touch on is his shooting since it is a large part of his offense. Caldwell-Pope shot less than 40% from the field which is definitely a concerning number. When you look closer, you can see that 56% of Caldwell-Pope's shots were 3 point attempts, which makes him more 3-pt centered than Kim English, Marcus Denmon, CJ Wilcox, Seth Curry, Ashton Gibbs, Bradley Beal, and Darius Miller just to name a few.

So his high 3-pt attempts are a big part of why his overall FG% is so low. The fact that he only made 30% of his threes offers an even better explanation. Caldwell-Pope never stopped firing threes all season long even though hi 3-pt% was never above 34%. To finish the season, Caldwell-Pope went on a 8-44 drought.

Caldwell-Pope has always been known as a shooter and looks the part. He does a great job of setting his feet and squaring up to the hoop. His quick release aids his chucking ways, allowing him to get shots off with even the slightest bit of space. Pope took a lot of early threes last year, pulling up in transition and whenever he had room. Despite him missing tons of them, Caldwell-Pope's confidence never wavered. While his unconscious shooting can be seen as a bad thing, he does have the ideal shooter's mentality. Caldwell-Pope is a good shooter - that part of his game will come around.

I did see a more than a couple of times where Caldwell-Pope offered up air balls from 3-pt range. Right now, he has plenty of range but he needs to adjust to the college 3-pt line. Inside the arc, Caldwell-Pope's jumper was just as pure and even more reliable. Caldwell-Pope struggles to create space for his own shot, but if you overplay him, he does have a good first step and the ability to shoot off the dribble. He doesn't get to the rim very often, but he does a great job of getting squared up on the fly and hitting mid-range jumpers. He can move laterally out of the defenses' way or drive to the foul line area and pull up with a slight fade to create enough room for his jumper. He isn't the kind of guy who is going to cross you up and dribble the ball excessively, but he can use the dribble to get to spots on the floor he feels comfortable at.

His 2-pt% is actually solid for a guy who rarely gets to the rim. He shot over 50% inside the arc, making him slightly above average for a shooting guard. Considering all the long 2s he took, it is a testament to his pure shooting ability. Pope isn't a trained 3-pt shooter, he is a guy who can hit from all over. 

One problem Caldwell-Pope will have to overcome is his short arms. His wingspan measured about equal length to his height at around 6'6'' this summer. With his quick release and good elevation, Caldwell-Pope has already eliminated his short arm problem when it comes to affecting his shooting. He also has shown a turnaround jumper when posting up and fades back on his mid-range jumpers. When he finishes, Caldwell-Pope is explosive and finishes strong, often with dunks. He also does a good job of gathering himself and staying under control. He does everything he can on offense to prevent his lack of length get in the way.

Defensively, his lack of length doesn't appear to bother him either but it does limit who he can guard. With only a 6'6'' wingspan, it makes him strictly a shooting guard at the next level. Thats unfortunate because he is a very good defender who could be used as a teams primary wing defender in the future. The fact that he doesn't have the length to cover a lot of small forwards is disappointing. He may be able to make up for it with his toughness and tenacity on defense. Caldwell-Pope guards his man like his life depends on it at all times. He plays physical, possesses great lateral quickness, and had excellent awareness and energy for a guy who was only 18 for much of the season. He also did a great job helping off his man to stop penetration and his rebounding was phenomenal for a guard. He was second on the team in rebounding and ranked 10th out of all shooting guards in rebounds per 40 minutes. The only freshman who ranked above him was Bradley Beal, who played in a four guard offense while Caldwell-Pope played on a more traditional team.

As a shooter, it is a great sign for Caldwell-Pope's stock that he is willing to contribute to the team in other areas. There are plenty of guys who can shoot so everything you can do to stick out helps your case. Shooters success often depends on the situation the are placed in and that is why they generally don't go in the lottery. Caldwell-Pope has an uphill battle to prove that he is more valuable than other shooters and warrants a top 20 selection in the draft.

I also observed some other little things about his game that the numbers don't show. He has low assists numbers (but does have a positive A/TO ratio) since he can't create shots for himself much less anyone else, but he is a good passer. He is able to thread passes in between defenders while rarely making mistakes. Off the ball, Caldwell-Pope works hard to get open off screens and as I said before, is very quick to square his shoulders to the basket. He also can use on-ball screens to move laterally around for cleaner looks on his jumper. He likely will never be a guy to split defenders on picks, but he is able to use them to his advantage. He also does a good job of cutting to the hoop when the opportunity presents itself. In transition, Caldwell-Poope does show that he has adequate handle and is actually very fast with the ball.

He seems like a good character guy and student. He has the right attitude to be a complimentary wing player either off the bench or next to a high volume scorer. Caldwell-Pope isn't a franchise changer at the NBA level or even really at the college level, as you saw with Georgia's record, but he can turn into an important role player down the line on a good team. He brings a lot of things besides his shooting to the table. It would be nice to see him shoot a higher % from 3 this season because two straight seasons of bad shooting numbers would force anyone to revisit their assumption that he is a good shooter. I, of course, expect that his 3-pt percentage will be improved. Some draft sites have his stock as high as the lottery, but I think a more realistic projection would be the late teens to the mid-20s. Caldwell-Pope will be an interesting player to follow this season and is always a fun player to watch.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Scouting Report: Deonte Burton (Nevada)

Height: 6'1''
Weight: 185lbs
Wingspan: 6'6''
Bday: 6/26/1991

Team: Nevada
Class of 2014

When Deonte Burton came to Nevada, he had never played the point guard position before. Burton was more of a small shooting guard who loved to shoot the ball, but he didn't have the selfish label. Late in the recruiting process, UCLA ended up trying to get him, but Burton remained loyal to Nevada who had been interested from the beginning. Nevada has turned out to be a lot better situation for him, not only allowing him to play his freshman year, but he had the opportunity to learn how to play point guard on the fly.

Armon Johnson ended up declaring for the NBA draft, leaving a vacant opening at the point guard position. Burton was asked to fill the job and did so admirably. He had a great freshman season, being named the WAC's freshman of the year. As an undersized scoring guard, his transition and success right away at the point guard position drew the attention of NBA scouts.

Now, Burton hasn't been an overnight success story running the point guard. With Nevada's offense, he hasn't been asked to be much of a playmaker yet. Nevada had Dario Hunt, Olek Cyzy, and Malik Story all capable of creating their own shots. Burton was more in charge of bringing the ball up the court and getting his team into the offense. Coach David Carter didn't place a ton of pressure on him. For the most part, Burton was still asked to do what he does best - score.

Burton was known as a volume shooter in high school and you can still see the shooting guard in him when he plays. Too many times Burton brings the ball up and fires a deep 3-pt shot right away. Burton gets excellent lift on his jumper, allowing him to shoot over the bigger defenders he saw as a SG, but has a habit of shooting on his way down. His long release and extended movement from his legs creates a lot of moving parts, but there is a large enough sample size to call Burton a good shooter. He shot 35.5% from 3 his freshman year and upped his percentage to 37% this past season while taking over 5 threes per 40 minutes. He also improved his FT% by 5%, shooting a respective 80% in his sophomore year. Something that is surprising is that Burton is a very good shooter under pressure. Burton takes plenty of questionable shots that are contested, but he has apparently adjusted to shooting with a hand in his face fairly well.

Burton's no fear attitude and confidence in his jumper makes him the scorer he is right now. His three point shot sets up the rest of his offense, as the defense knows that he will pop a jumper at any time - from anywhere on the court. Burton takes advantage of this, showing a nice little ball fake and stutter step, using it to get into the lane. Burton has the strong body and explosiveness to do damage inside, but at this moment he is still a work in progress.

Burton is a very solidily put together player with natural athletic ability. He is on the small end and lacks the elite athleticism to render that point obsolete. Still, he is a good enough athlete that he can survive. He just needs to improve his mid-range game. If I was to give Burton any advice, Id recommend him model his game after former Hofstra star, Charles Jenkins, who is now in the NBA.

Right now, Burton has no in-between game. He take it hard into the lane and has to settle for difficult shots through contact. Burton can finish "and-one" plays at the rim as he has tons of explosion packed into his frame, but awkward shots from the foul line while absorbing contact should be avoided. Burton has a decent crossover and shows some hesitation moves, but has been unable to put it all together to form a mid-range game. Part of the problem does fall on his shooting form. Burton needs to get his feet set in order to get a good shot off and his current form makes it hard to do off the dribble in the paint. Off the dribble in transition is a little different as Burton is able to slow up and set his feet with a crossover to gain space. But in traffic, that is not feasible.

Burton is a steady ball handler, staying low to the ground and protecting the body with his mature frame. He has a propensity to drive the ball to the left, even though he is right handed. He seems to get more burst with his left hand. If Burton continues to do this, he needs to work on finishing with his left hand as well. For a guy that goes to the left as often as he does, he costs himself some baskets trying to finish with his right hand.

As a point guard, Burton is still a work in progress. Burton was not aggressive about bringing the ball up the court each time and being a leader. He did play on a veteran team, but I would have liked to see him bring the ball up more. Too many times the opposition covered Burton on the in-bounds and Burton made no effort to come back for the ball. He just ran up the court and assumed the role of shooting guard. When Burton does bring it up, he will either look to score in transition right away or initiate the offense at the top of the key by simply passing it off to somebody else. Rarely does Burton create much for his teammates, but Nevada's offense wasn't the best for that.

Burton would get chances on the pick and roll where he shows the ability to turn the corner. He also showed the ability to dribble himself into double teams and struggled to find an open teammate when being crowded by taller defenders. Burton needs to make quicker decision off the pick and roll due to his size and also needs to see the court better. Burton has to keep his head up and find open teammates. Right now, Burton makes the easy passes but can't see secondary and tertiary options.

Burton does take a lot of questionable shots, but overall he is a pretty unselfish player. Burton is a very streaky scorer who will go off for 8 points in a row and then fade into the background for the rest of the half. He can force some jumpshots, but they are shots he can make. When it comes to driving, Burton has improved since his freshman year in terms of playing more under control.

Defensively,  Burton shows the strength and energy to become a decent defender. He has solid length that should make him adequate in terms of point guards, perhaps even ideal considering his body type. Burton is fundamentally sound, staying low to the ground and always making sure to have his hands up. His lateral quickness leaves something to be desired, but since his strength is not an issue, Burton doesnt have to worry about losing anymore quickness in order to add weight. Burton hasn't impressed with his ability to rebound, but Nevada did employ a fair amountof zone defense in the games I watched. His quickness won't ever allow him to be a big playmaker defensively, but he can be a solid defender who stays in his lane.

To me, Burton has a long way to go as a prospect. He is being looked at as a potential second rounder this year, but he has a lot to improve upon to get there. With Cyzy and Hunt gone, the Nevada offense will become more perimeter oriented and Burton will finally be asked to be a playmaker. That is a good thing. The problem is Burton at the moment is still an undersize combo guard (tweener) without elite athleticism, point guard skills, feel for the game, or elite scoring ability. He is a solid player, but his transition to point guard has been overstated. He has been more of a point guard by title up to this point. This year we will see him pushed farther out of his comfort zone which can only be a good thing for him. He looks like an undrafted guy at the moment with his ceiling being a second rounder.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Scouting Report: Lorenzo Brown

Height: 6'5''
Weight:  180
Bday: 8/26/1990

Team: North Carolina State
Class of 2014

Lorenzo Brown made steady improvements to his game last year, partly due to Ryan Harrow's transfer and Mark Gottfried's trust in him to call him the Wolfpack's starting point guard from day one. Lorenzo Brown came into NC State in the same recruiting class as Harrow, another prized point guard recruit, but he was supposed to show up to Raleigh a year earlier. However, grades forced him to attend a year at prep school. Him and Harrow shared point guard duties and both had their moments, but ended up going separate paths. Both paths could cross again as the two of them are potential first round picks in the 2013 draft.

This year, Lorenzo Brown is joined by an excellent recruiting class, including Rodney Purvis, and a great returning core including Richard Howell, CJ Leslie, and Scott Wood. After making the tournament in the first time in 5 years, they now look to be one of, if not the favorite in the ACC.

Brown will have a ton of talent around him, but also a lot of expectations. No longer are they going to sneak up on anybody. His role may also be a little different. With graduate student Alex Johnson gone and Rodney Purvis seemingly taking his place in the lineup, Brown is going to be asked to act even more like a point guard and less like a scoring guard.

Brown has shown plenty of potential in doing that and has improved greatly. He came to North Carolina State as a combo guard whose career could go either way - shooting guard or point guard. Fortunately for his NBA stock, point guard is looking like a good bet for him now. He went from 5 assists per 40 minute last year to over 7 his sophomore season.

As a point guard, Brown exhibits great passing skills. He is able to get into the lane without a problem and does an excellent job setting up his teammates. When he drives, he has a pass first mind set and is very creative at delivering the ball. Brown doesn't simply kick the ball out to shooters, Brown likes to drive and dish down low to set up easy shots. He passes it into the post, finds cutters, and sets up teammates for good looks in the mid-range area.

Brown is his best at full speed. When he is asked to bring the ball up, he loves to get a running start and be on the attack before he even crosses halfcourt. When Brown gets you back pedaling, you will be hard pressed to stop him. Brown also likes to get a head start on his defender because he does struggle at times when he is pressed. His handle, while very crafty, tends to be lose. He does get the ball stolen cleanly from him at times when he has a defender at his hip pocket.

Brown's ball handling ability overall though, is what defines him as a player. his crossover allows him to change directions with ease. He is a natural dribbling the ball with either hand and his crossover is effortless yet extremely effective. He uses it all the time and it never fails to create space. He loves to use it to get in the mid-range area where he will look for a teammate first, but does have a solid mid-range game for himself to fall back on. His combination of ball fakes, hesitations, and effectiveness of his crossover make him very hard to stay in front of once he gets going. His ball handling ability allows him to virtually get where he wants on the court. He has improved his pull up jumper since his freshman season, resulting in an increased shooting percentage from 41% to 45%. He also has a very pretty floater that he can shooter of any ACC guard due to his elite size. Thanks to his size, Brown also can use his body to shield off defenders and he knows how to do this well. His long strides are also a plus.

Brown is also a bit of a throwback in the sense that he will take advantage of his size by posting up smaller defenders. He generally looks to pass out of these situations, but has flashed a turnaround jumper as well. Some of the things he does offensively remind me of Andre Miller.

Like Miller as shown late in his career, he can play off ball. Brown has a history of playing off the basketball and it shows. He does a great job getting open and also plays in a well coached NC State offense. He is great running around screens, due to his fluidness, slim frame, and terrific top end speed.  He has a great feel off the ball - cutting to the hoop when the opportunity arises.

In transition, Brown can take it all the way to tthe hoop without anyone being able to stop him. I think its hard to understand his speed since he is a taller guy, but he really gets from end to end in a hurry.

Physically, Brown has excellent size and I believe he is a legit 6'5''. He was noticeably bigger than most PGs and SGs in the ACC. His frame right now is slender. Speed wise, he is very good at full speed. He has a long, quick first step and his quickness is enhanced by his deception and ball skills. His lateral quickness suffers on the defensive end. Brown isn't explosive at the hoop, but will finish with dunks from time to time. He isn't terrible at finishing with contact, but strength is definitely something he needs to improve.

Brown has just about everything needed to be a point guard, but the majority of the questions about his game still center around whether or not he can be a point guard full time. Some believe he is just a really good ball handler who can pass, but does not exhibit the kind of intangibles needed. To me, he does have some AAU characteristics to his game, but I think he generally does a good job of picking his spots, playing under control, and making his teammates better. He does need to do a lot better job at control the tempo of games, so they don't blow 20 points leads like they did last year.

The things I am more worried about his his finesse game and ability to deal with a defender up in his face. Brown does a good job avoiding these situations, but pro scouting won't fail to capitalize on his loose handles. In college, he uses ball screens to initially get him open and doesn't bring the ball up regularly. He also likes to reset himself by taking a few steps back in order to separate from the defender. In the NBA, he may benefit from the lapse defense, but he will initially have to prove he can handle to pressure. Right now, that may be the biggest thing holding him back as a point guard. His intangibles are OK. He has a good feel for the game and makes his teammates better. He stays interested in the game and shows some leadership abilities. I dont generally like a point guard to fail to qualify for college academically, but it is what it is. Its something to be considered. Also, Id like to see him in more pick and roll opportunities. We know he can come of screens very well without the ball, but NC State doesn't do enough on ball screens. To be honest, most of the time Brown doesn't need them but in order to be an NBA point guard you have to excel in the pick and roll game. Brown's game should translate, but Gottfried's offense is more based around motion and cuts.

His finesse play is more worrisome on the defense end. Offensively, Id like to see him be stronger and more explosive at the rim, but his floater and passing ability make it so he can get around it. Defensively though, he treats screens like bombs and stays far away from them. Brown creates way too much work for himself on defense, as he refuses to fight through screens and instead tries to rely on his speed to run around everything. He switches on screens whenever he can. Brown's refusal to battle through contact will be an absolute death sentence if he continues to keep it up. He needs to add weight to his frame, but even so, Brown shouldn't be avoiding contact like he is in the college game.

His finesse style carries over into passiveness on the defensive end as well. Brown can be a good defender for stretches - I watched him give Austin Rivers a hard time for an entire half - but for the most part, he is very easy to drive past. He doesn't slide his feet well, a result of him most likely being able to get away with depending on his pure speed in his younger days. At a legit 6'5'', Brown has to put some effort in staying lo. Its not the easiest thing for a man of his size to do, but it is necessary. His size does come in handy in contesting shots and he also has good length. He is able to guard both backcourt positions.

Shooting wise, Brown improved his 3-pt % from 30% to 35%. He is good with his feet set and is getting more comfortable with his step back jumper. He isn't fully comfortable shooting off the dribble unless he has time to gather himself. When he does, he shows nice touch mid-range. I question his range out to the NBA 3-pt line and doubt he will be much more than a "keep you honest" kind of shooter from 3. His free throw percentage sits in the low 70s.

Overall, Brown has one best skill to physical attribute combinations out of all the point guard eligible to be drafted. Playing for a top 10 team this year, there will be a spotlight on him and very hard criticism on how he runs a team. He has plenty of talent around him, so he will be expected to act like a point guard and run the team, making sure everyone gets their touches. I want to see Brown bring the ball up more this year and deal with pressure. He needs to continue to improve his shooting and show a new found desire on defense. Proof of toughness would be welcomed.  Most of all, Brown should be the leader of this NC State team.

A good showing this year will be good enough to get him in the first round, but his ceiling can be as high as the lottery. Besides Myck Kabongo, I am not sure there is a point guard in this draft with more potential. He likely comes out this season because he is going to be 22 this month. His age does cause some concerns - I would be much more willing to consider him a lottery guy if he were only 20. Still, Brown is a very intriguing point guard to monitor this year. You will be hearing plenty more from him.