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Monday, September 3, 2012

Five Low-Major NBA Prospects I Guarantee You've Never Heard Of

(and probably will never hear from again after this article).

These guys aren't on the level of other low-major guys like Nate Wolters, CJ McCollom, CJ Aiken, Robert Covington, or even Zeke Marshall. But I digress. These five guys had intriguing enough statistics that I wanted to evaluate their games to find out what they are all about. These aren't the five best low-major players, just five guys that have virtually no attention and hype in the draft world. Maybe there is a reason for that or maybe they are hidden gems. Either way, I decided to see from myself. I didn't expect to find a legitimate future first rounder. A second round selection even could be far-fetched for most of these guys. Last year Scott Machado went from a good passer whose inefficiency all but dismissed him as a NBA player to a guy who entered the draft conversation and should find a spot on a NBA roster.

6'4'' 170lb Senior SG George Beamon (Manhattan) - 19ppg 2ast 5.6reb 48FG% 42.7% 3-pt 80FT% 0.5blks 1.5stls 2.7tos

Beamon is heading into his senior year and is a much more complete prospect compared to some of the younger guys I will cover. Beamon is a young senior at 21 and has shown an immense amount of improvement during his time as a Jasper. His freshman year he saw the floor sparingly, but parlayed the experience to a sophomore season where he averaged 16.3 points per contest. A 19 year old prolific scorer is something to take note of, especially with the kind of jump he made, but his junior season is what makes him so intriguing. He scored 16 points per game his sophomore year with no 3-pt shot to speak of, but his junior season he turned his jumper into a huge strength, making nearly 2 threes a game at a 42.7% clip. Since December 4th, Beamon shot an incredible 53-103 from deep. This tells us a two things about him: 1) He is a very hard worker. 2) He can at a good rate even without a 3-pt shot.

Even weirder then his jump from shooting 6-40 from 3 the year before to his current 42% rate now, is the form he uses to be so successful. Beamon's jumper is ugly. His upper body flails around, his legs move in a scissor motion, yet he releases the ball high and quickly. The fact of the matter is it goes in. When I first saw it, I doubted he could shoot that way off the dribble, but somehow he was able to in a somewhat fluid matter. His free throw shooting also jumped from 73% to 80%. This kid is obviously a gym rat who loves the game. The question is what will he add to his game for an encore his senior year?

One thing he could add, is some more strength. At 170lbs, Beamon tries to fill the lane for his team and act as a forward, but he gets pushed around easily. Its obvious he hasn't hit the weight room at all, but then again, thats because he must spend his entire day shooting jumpers. Weight is definitely needed even to play his projected pro position - shooting guard.

Before he had the jumper, Beamon could still score. He is actually the 2nd leading scorer (34ppg) in Nassau County high school basketball history behind longtime NBA vet Wally Szczerbiak.  He is a capable driver who chooses his spots well. He looks to get the ball into the post a lot for some inside-outside plays, but when he has a screener set up when he has the ball, he will exercise his ability to drive. Beamon is quick for a low-major player, likes to go right, and has a long crossover move that is hit or miss. He can lose control of it or cause the defender to lose control of his footing. His ball handling is OK. He does a good job not overdribbling and can get to the rim, but his handle can be loose. As a finisher, his frail frame really hinders him. He also lacks a reliable left hand or the kind of explosiveness that is looked for in NBA wings. He does have nice touch on his floater and the funny thing is some of his inside shots can look just as awkward as his jumper. 

Defensively, Manhattan ran a lot of zone with Beamon playing down low, which in inadvertently puts him in a tough spot. Still, Beamon had plenty of chances to show off his good footwork and his commitment to that end of the floor. With Beamon, you are getting an unselfish guy who does a lot of little things, it just so happens he can score. Beamon is one of the most pro ready players I will touch on, but even he is a long shot to hear his name called by David Stern or Adam Silver next year. That is unless he makes another unfathomable leap in skill.

6'4'' 185lb Junior PG Frantz Massenat (Drexel) - 13.7ppg 4.8ast 3.1reb 43FG% 45% 3-pt 78FT% 0.4blks 0.9stls 2.1tos 35.8mpg

It wasn't uncommon to see Massenat in this position last year while on offense. Lack of conditioning or lack of heart?

Massenat got my attention with his great combination of size and shooting as the point guard for arguably the best team in the CAA last year. And that was already his sophomore year, but he has been starting at the point position since he walked on campus. Looking a little deeper, I saw that Massenat is apparently a great student and I figured that his smarts and work ethic carried over to the basketball court.

From a physical standpoint, he met expectations. He has great size even for a NBA point guard, a good build, and good quickness. He has a nice and long first step, moves well laterally, and is what I would call a rangy athlete.

From a basketball perspective, he has a lot of learning to do. He is not much of a passer, off the dribble Massenat is much more of a scorer. Even standing still, Massenat really doesn't pass too well - throwing way too many lackadaisical passes. As a scorer, Massenat is able to utilize his quick first step to get by defenders and uses his size to shoot floaters and off balanced mid-range shots over defenders with ease. He can get those shots at any time, but usually enters the lane out of control and doesn't leave himself any option but to force up a shot. As I said before, he doesn't pass on these drives and does a bad job of changing up his speeds to allow him to expand his game. In terms of his ball handling, Massenat is very left hand dominant. His dribble is too loose, although he does have some very nifty and quick moves. With his offense, his ability to improve all centers around him learning to change speeds.

While he has some work to do from a skills perspective, Massenat's body language was the biggest turnoff when looking towards his future. Coming into the evaluate, I expected to see a kid who was mature beyond his years and lead by example. Instead I saw a guy who took plays off, didn't hustle down the court, reacted negatively towards teammates, and was easily frustrated. There was no leadership. This effected his defense where he actually does have the tools to succeed. Instead of being a factor on that end, opposing teams went after him. He is highly susceptible to on-ball screens, making absolutely zero effort to fight through them. He either goes under them or more commonly, walks right into the screener and acts as if the guy is an unmovable force. Running the pick and roll against Massenat is easy offense.

Ultimately, Massenat is the opposite of what I was hoping to see. With low-major prospects, you need them to have good intangibles. They can't afford to cost and expect to get by on just talent. Luckily Massenat has two more years to mature, but the early returns don't look good.

6'7'' 227lb Junior Forward De'Mon Brooks (Davidson) - 15.7ppg 0.8ast 6.2reb 53FG% 37% 3-pt 72FT% 0.5blk 1stl 1.7to 22.8min

De'Mon Brooks was the 5th leading per minute scorer in the NCAA last year while only being 19 years old, playing for a NCAA tournament team, and winning SoCON's player of the year award. Yet his name is largely unknown and even his own coach refused to give him the minutes his numbers said he warranted. I took to the film to discover exactly why Brooks didn't even get enough respect last year on his own team.

First thing is first, Davidson does use a lot of players. Eight guys get at least 16 minutes a game so that helps answer the question of Brooks lack of playing time. That was about the only answer I found become Brooks really is a good player. When a guy puts up big number yet fails to get minutes, you usually are dealing with a selfish player or someone who is a defensive reliability, but neither are true for De'Mon Brooks. Brooks is undersized as a 6'7'' big man, but plays physical and with a good motor.

He has really good length, although it is still in his best interest to learn to play the wing, and moves his feet well on defense. He keeps his hands up at all times, hedges really well on pick and rolls, and brings double teams instinctively when the situation calls for it. He gives a great effort on defense. When in man to man, he doesn't get a chance to cover perimeter guys, but Davidson likes to run a 1-3-1 zone as well that features Brooks on the wing. There he doesn't look completely out of place, but he isn't notably good either.

Offensively, Brooks benefits from mismatches. He can get open looks from behind the arc when centers hesitate to vacate the painted area in coverage. Brooks is a good shooter from outside the arc, shooting a respectable 37%. That number definitely overstates his shooting ability though, as he doesn't take too many threes and the ones he does shoot are often without a defender in his face. His jumpshot is slow with a lot of bending action at the knees.

Brooks can also size up the outside shot and choose to instead blow by mid-major big men with a solid first step. He gets a lot of these looks by setting screens for the ball handler and then popping out behind the line. With the defender closing in, Brooks has no problem getting into the lane, but does have trouble taking the ball all the way to the rim. He likes to cut his loses from around 10-15 feet, where he will use a spin move to set up a contested shot. Brooks also attacks the offensive glass hard - 2.4 of his 6.2 rebounds come on the offensive end. Brooks doesn't do anything great on offense, but his versatility and opportunistic play enable him to put up points at an alarming rate.

Brooks just turned 20 in May and still has two years of college left. He should begin to get some national attention during that time as Davidson looks to be a good team over that stage and Brooks will be a big part of it. Ideally for Brooks draft hopes, he will transition to a SF during that time, but he appears to be more valuable at the mid-major level taking advantage of mismatches. Anyway, a transition to a fulltime wing looks like a stretch for Brooks. What Brooks needs to do is to get his rebounding numbers up to a dominating level. With his nose for the ball and toughness inside, he has the ability to do it. The NBA takes notice of rebounders and it could propel Brooks to some draft buzz. Of the 5 guys I am looking at for this piece, Brooks seems to be the best long term draft prospect with a shot at the second round after his senior year.

6'11'' 234lb Senior Center Mike Muscala (Bucknell) - 17ppg 1.8ast 9.1reb 50FG% 35%3-pt 85FT% 1.7blk 0.5stl 2.1to 29.9min

Seven footers are a rare breed and even though the NBA has been steering away more and more, they still hold a special power that at least warrants a look from NBA scouts. Jeff Foote is a recent example of a seven footer who isn't a great athlete, came from a small school, and didn't put up huge numbers but managed to work his way into NBA games. Based on Muscala's numbers, I felt he could have a chance to do the same thing.

The first thing to notice about Muscala is how skilled he is - even more skilled then Foote in fact. Muscala shot 85% from the free throw line and that carries over to a nice mid-range game that stretches out to 18 feet. He did shoot 35% from three, but on limited attempts. His jumpshot looks more like a guards, as he puts some bend in his knees and actually jumps. He also will put the ball on the floor like a guard and can even make some passes off the dribble. In general, Muscala has a nice feel for the game. Despite his skills, Muscala doesn't get great position down low and dominate the post. He only shot 50% from the field due to the lack of shots at the rim. He doesn't have great strength and he is an average leaper at best. For a guy like Foote, he is successful offensively because he is a high efficiency player who hangs around the rim and can finish with contact. Muscala is more finesse and thus, does not necessarily translate as well at the next level.

Muscala does mix it up inside, not shying away from contact, but you can tell it isn't a strong suit of his. He is a willing banger, but is much more comfortable playing away from the hoop. Muscala plays hard, runs the court well, and gets to the free throw line at a good rate as he can dribble and outhustle defenders to spots on the court.

Athletically, Muscala doesn't have good lateral quickness from side to side, although he is light on his feet and runs the court fairly well. He won't be able to cover power forwards at the next level and as a center, he doesn't present much of a shotblocking threat at the rim. He also needs to put on more weight, yet that will restrict his movement even more.

Muscala looks like a fringe prospect without much upside at this moment. A seven footer that can shoot free throws is somewhat interesting and at 85% from the line, Muscala led all big men in free throw shooting last year. In the past ten years, he is in a class with Paul Davis, Goran Suton, Kevin Pittsnogle, and Nick Fazekas in terms of top free throw shooting bigs. Still, none of those guys have had success at the NBA level and I'd be hesitant to say Muscala is on the same level as a Paul Davis.

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