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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Shabazz, MCW, and "ABeast" - Plus Today's Games to Watch

Anthony Bennett had another good game against Canisus - he scored 21 points. His jumper has been looking excellent and effortless from 3-pt range. He set screens for teammates in order to get himself open. And in transition, Bennett shined once again - showing the body control of a guard on the break. He had one possession where he brought the ball up the court in transition and stopped on a dime at the free throw line to avoid the charge; hitting a mid-range jumper in the process. The way Bennett moves in the opencourt is the most impressive thing about him.

As for his defense, he did a terrible job of attempting to play help defense. He helped too far off his man, while not actually providing any help defense, and left his man open for wide open 3s. Going into this game, Jordan Heath's career high in 3-pt attempts was 4. He had 4 within the first ten minutes of last night's game and finished with 10 attempts on the night. That was the result of Bennett's lack of feel and urgency on the defensive end.

Shabazz Muhammad had 27 points in 26 minutes against Fresno State. He also had 7 rebounds - all on the offensive end. Its amazing how much better he is on the glass when there is a chance to get two points out of it. Muhammad has proven he has a strong desire to score and will do whatever it takes to make sure he gets his points. Now that he has lost 13 pounds in the last few weeks, we are seeing just how much of an impact he can have on the offensive glass. Its definitely his biggest strength.

Muhammad has gotten comparisons to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist because of his willingness to do whatever it takes to win. I see it more as he is willing to do whatever it takes to score. Kidd-Gilchrist is a guy who can help his team win in a lot more ways. I still haven't been impressed by Muhammad's defense and he doesn't have the playmaking ability of MGK. He will, however, score a lot more points. They are different players.

If I had to compare Muhammad to a NBA player, it would be Jerry Stackhouse. Stackhouse cleaned up on the glass in college, played tough, wasn't especially quick laterally, and lacked much of a floor game. Stackhouse was able to develop a good jumper and Muhammad has already started to show improvement with his shot. He should end up as a reliable shooting threat.

As for Muhammad's worth, it depends a lot of the team. Remember when Muhammad came back from injury and Jordan Adams wasn't expected to be as much of a factor anymore? Well it turns out, Muhammad actually needs that kind of player. He needs to play in a backcourt with players who can create their own shot and make plays. Muhammad can be a big scorer in the NBA, but he will thrive off of others. You don't want him playing next to a Demar Derozan. You want him focused on working off of the ball and finding a way to get the ball in the hoop. He isn't going to make plays for teammates, but he won't turn the ball over either. He doesn't need the ball to be effective.

In the lottery Toronto and Charlotte would be bad fits because they are already building around wings that aren't big offensive threats.

Yesterday Michael Carter-Williams showed some of the things Ive been concerned about all year and they lost to Temple. This is why I've been saying lets wait until Big East play. I've had a lot of people ask me why I've been so down on MCW and I feel somewhat vindicated after yesterday. Im not overreacting to one bad game here, everyone else has been overreacting to a string of solid games against a very weak schedule. His flaws have been on display all year.

Carter-Williams is very good in transition and has been able to get into the paint and make the simple pass this year. He has racked up a lot of assists and can see over defenses, but its ridiculous to compare his passing ability to Rubio's or Kendall Marshall's. Those guys have an out of this world knowledge of the game and the ability to see things before they happen. Carter-Williams has a good feel for the game, but is nowhere near the point guard either of them are.

Syracuse did much of their damage in transition play as they have all year. Carter-Williams himself is the key in this, as he is great at forcing turnovers and getting out on the break. His long strides and ability to change directions with good body control are key factors. He also does a good job finding ways to get the ball to teammates.

In the halfcourt, Carter-Williams has been very aggressive. Against San Diego State, Carter-Williams relied on his quick first step and a floater to get his points. He didn't go all the way to the rim against them. After that, Cuse has been playing cupcakes whose centers barely rival MCW in length and he has been able to get into the painted area. He still struggled finishing with contact and that was especially evident yesterday against Temple - their toughest opponent since SDSU.

Carter-Williams relies on his terrific first step to create offense in the halfcourt at this point. He has a good feel for the pick and roll game, but is too turnover prone to run it consistent. He has a loose dribble and combined with his height, struggles in the traffic an on ball screen creates. Its also true when he drives into the lane - that combined with his lack of strength is a big concern.

Syracuse's defense has been able to put their players in position to get overrated by NBA scouts. From Hakim Warrick, Jonny Flynn, Donte Greene, Dion Waiters, Wesley Johnson - these guys have all been major disappointments once they've gotten into the NBA. Carter-Williams is making like Waiters on defense this year - showing good anticipation skills and gambling for a lot of steals. He's a huge threat in this area, but how does it translate?

Carter-Williams will have a sizable learning curve to make up for on defense when he gets to the NBA and his predecessors aren't positive examples of success. He does have great tools on this end of the floor, but it doesn't automatically make him a great defender.

All in all, there can't be a more overrated player in the country right now from a NBA Draft perspective. This is a kid who also has character concerns and that came before the shoplifting incident. He is competitive and has a love for the game which is a positive. Yes he was willing to sit on the bench for a full season and didn't transfer despite contemplating it, but why would he transfer? He would have had to sit out a whole season and he knew that he would be starter this year at Cuse. Its hardly a reason to applaud him.

Carter-Williams wasn't even looked at as a point guard until late in his high school career, and even up until this year, has always been considering a combo guard. He has made great strides in learning the point guard position but still has a long way to go. His potential is definitely worth a first round pick this season but the "best point guard prospect in the country" talk needs to stop.

*With the upcoming week lacking in quantity of games, I'll be spreading out more thoughts throughout the week on yesterday's games.*

Games to Watch Today:

St. Mary's at Northern Iowa 2pm
Kennesaw State at Pittsburgh 5pm ESPN3
Indiana State vs San Diego State 5pm ESPNU
Colorado State vs Virginia Tech 11:30pm CBSSN
Arizona vs Miami 11:30pm ESPN2

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