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Monday, December 3, 2012

More Thoughts From the Weekend Games

I'm still pouring over games from the weekend, as it was jammed packed full up hoops action. I just want to get some of my thoughts down as I continue to dissect the play of certain prospects.

UNC vs UAB

- This was a typical North Carolina game where they just used their talent to run their opponent off the court. A 18 point win over UAB doesn't mean anything other than they are more talented than the Blazers. We know that. The questions about UNC are still as prominent as ever.

- One of those questions is their scoring options, which I've been harping on since the summer. But another problem is their big men. McAdoo is obviously their best big and he's not living up to expectations. Brice Johnson has been a pleasant surprise, but he can't hold his own inside. He's the type of player UNC usually has the luxury of not playing during his freshman year.

While those two may be the best bigs UNC has (which is lightyears away from the Zeller/Henson frontline of last year), they are both finesse bigs that are already getting pushed around. Once ACC play starts, this problem will be even more evident.

Joel James got the start against UAB over Desmond Hubert, but only logged 12 minutes. He fumbled a few passes and was unable to defend UAB's face up big men so he quickly got yanked. Hubert only played 7 minutes and it actually was the best 7 minutes I've seen out of him.

Thats UNC's big man rotation. A overhyped sophomore who can't handle the expectations, a skinny freshman who can't handle inside play, a big man still trying to get in shape, and Hubert who was signed purely for depth.

James will get better and he is the guy they need to step up during ACC play. He's shown flashes of brilliance at times. Johnson has the quick catch and shoot turnaround jumper down to a science, but the rest of his game is very raw. He is just way too weak to be an effective ACC player at this point.

- In the UAB game, McAdoo hit quite a few jumpers which was the most promising thing about his performance Saturday. And those jumpers weren't just the typical 10 footers he hits. He showed range out to 18 feet and had to have hit at least 4 or 5. His favorite spot seems to be on the left baseline.

Other than that, McAdoo continues to turn it over a lot - 6 times against the Blazers. Its not that McAdoo makes bad decisions or is a poor ball handler for a big man, I think its mainly because of his lack of strength. He is very soft with the ball in his hands. He gets pushed around inside leaving him off balance and vulnerable to turning it over. Its something that I realized would be a problem last year when watching him rebound. He has a solid frame but the strength and toughness (both mental and physical) isn't there yet.

- In other news, Reggie Bullock has started to put the ball on the floor to create shots. It will never be his game and we are seeing so-so results, but somebody has to step up and its good to see he's trying. Bullock will be a solid pro because of his 3-pt shooting and defense, but being able to keep the defense honest with the rest of his game could help him become a starter at the next level.

- PJ Hairston is still settling for too many jumpers. I'm not sure if injuries have limited his athleticism or lack of conditioning, but he's not as dynamic as he was supposed to be coming out of high school. He's a steaky chucker at this point.

Creighton vs St. Joe's

This game was expected to be closer, but the Blue Jays blew the doors off the Hawks early for the 80-51 win. The first half wasn't pretty for the Hawks, who watched McDermott go off for 17 in about the first ten minutes. Ronald Roberts Jr also had to sit out most of the first half with two fouls.

In the second half, St. Joe's played them much better. St. Joe's should be fine moving forward, one bad half doesn't change their promising outlook that has them favorite to win their conference.

- Some view CJ Aiken as a second round pick this year but I just don't see it. So far he is having a worse season in pretty much every way than the year before. The biggest thing though is he is so skinny. His body hasn't changed at all and his narrow shoulders aren't going to ever allow for much weight. Gregory Echenique  looked twice as wide as him and abused him inside.

Aiken is a very springy athlete and quick laterally. He gets a lot of blocks even when giving up deep post position. He is a Jarvis Varnado kind of defender - except not has long or dominant blocking shots. Aiken also seems interested in playing some small forward, but has no ball skills to speak of. Plus, he is 4-21 from behind the arc this season. I talked about Brice Johnson earlier - Aiken is Brice Johnson in two years if he doesn't gain any weight.

- St. Joe's best prospect in my opinion is actually Ronald Roberts Jr. He didn't have a very good game against Creighton - having as many TOs as points (3), but he is much more of a true post player than Aiken. He has a good feel with his back to the basket and teammates seem to like getting him the ball. They know he will get the ball back to them if he can't get a good shot and he can help them get open looks. He also shows a nice 15 foot jumper and solid footwork. He sports a chiseled frame that can handle added weight and he's been a great rebounder this season.

Roberts won't get enough work inside this season to get noticed, but he could breakout in his senior season. Roberts doesn't have a high ceiling, but he could work his way into the second round or at least a Portsmouth invite next season.

Pittsburgh vs Detroit

For awhile, it looked like Detroit would win this game. They entered the first half up by 8, but Jamie Dixon made some nice adjustments at the half to eventually win the game 74-61. Part of it was slowing down Ray McCallum Jr who had 17 first half points. His first bucket in the second half, a three, didn't come until about ten minutes into play.

- Ive seen McCallum four times this season now, and so far, he's doing his best CJ McCollom impersonation by handling the scoring for Detroit. And really, he's doing it just as good as CJ. Which makes me wonder how some people can list McCollom as a lottery pick yet have McCallum in the second round.

McCallum has proved his jumper can be just as lethal as CJ's and he is just as good at getting it off with his quick release and ankle-breaking crossover move. And with Ray, there is no question about whether he can play point guard at the next level - that is what he does. This season he is just proving he can step into the scoring role and its been a seamless transition. I'm not knocking McCollom, I'm more wondering where the love is for Ray. He is a sure fire first round pick in my opinion that should get consideration in the top 20. Maybe even higher.

- Steven Adams only played 12 minutes and scored 2 points. He had a tough matchup on Minnerath, who is a big man who likes to step out on the perimeter. Adams has gone through the process of getting his feet wet and feeling out the waters. He looked afraid of having the ball int he first few games and now is working in the paint like he actually wants to receive a pass. His 2 points came on a nice post up play where he got nice position and turned quickly over his shoulder for an easy bucket. His teammates looked to get him the ball more, but he didn't do a good job sealing off his position and keeping his defender behind him in the post. Most of the entry passes to him ended up being broken up.

There is no doubt Adams has plenty of work to do and has to become more aggressive getting the ball and using his body. This goes for rebounding too. Adams should be a beast on the boards, but his skills look very poor at this point. He doesn't react quickly, struggled to catch the ball, and doesn't hold onto the ball well when he does. He rarely rebounds outside his area.

If there is one thing Adams needs to prove he can do this season, its rebound. Scouts will be patient with the rest of the game.

Speaking of scouts, Sam Presti was on hand for the Pitt vs Detroit game. He has a reason to be looking at Adams as OKC owns Toronto's probable lottery pick. Presti is always looking for a big enforcer inside and Adams is right down his alley. Presti also had to like the scoring he saw out of McCallum and Talib Zanna's continued success. Zanna's play so far definitely warrants a second round pick.

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