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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Senior Rankings (1-5) - Withey, McCollom, Plumlee, Covington, and Wolters

1. CJ McCollom - McCollom may be the best scorer in the country and has already had 3 30+ point games this season; the most in Division 1. He has the ability to take over games with his scoring and lead his team to victory over just about any team in the country. My worries with him are his position and his reliance on long 2-pters. He has the highest potential amongst the seniors and the best chance of making me look silly if I don't rank him #1.

2. Jeff Withey - The second best senior? It sounds weird, but Withey has an elite ability to affect games on the defensive end that should make him a good player in the pros. He moves so fluidly for a 7 footer and gets off the court quickly. He has been Kansas's best player so far, even becoming more of a threat on offense. Kansas can't get much penetration so Withey has been a key factor on offense - being relied upon as a part of their inside/out game. He has shown quick moves in the post and has been more aggressive this season. Withey isn't the most talented senior, but he might be the surest bet to walk onto a NBA team and contribute right away.

3. Mason Plumlee - There is part of me that wants to rank Plumlee lower, but its tough with the season he is having. He very well could be National Player of the Year this season and his stock should start soaring. It won't surprise me if he ends up in the lottery. I don't want to split hairs though with his ranking - my main point is if I were a GM, I'd spend my top 20 pick somewhere else. I'd much rather take Jeff Withey outside the top 20 then spend a top 20 pick on Mason. Nothing against him, he's having a great season, I just question how it all translates to the next level. His offense is a lot of face up looks, but he can't shoot. He relies on the drive, but its going to be hard to keep NBA defenses honest if he can't consistent hit the 15 footer. And his post game is still based on his athleticism. And he doesn't even establish deep post position enough to take advantage of it.

Defensively, he's not an imposing threat as an anchor in the middle, yet doesn't have great lateral quickness to be a good defender against power forwards. He's kind of a tweener in a weird way. The positive thing about Plumlee this season is his energy and rebounding - both which will translate into the NBA. That will be how he hangs his hat in the league - as a energy player off the bench.

4. Robert Covington - Ive written about him twice and summed up his game well here. I watched him put up a bad stat line against Minnesota this year, but it wasn't his fault. Covington offers a great amount of intrigue for a senior prospect. He has starter upside, but could also fail to find a role.

5. Nate Wolters - I've also covered Wolters' game twice - here and here. His season so far has done nothing but build his legend and improve his stock. Right now, he has the best numbers statistically among all PG prospects when you look at all the important requirements - points, assists, 2-pt%, 3-pt%, FTA, FT%, rebounds, turnovers, and steals. Every other top point guard prospect has a flaw in one of these areas - Wolters does not. Of course there are more to projecting players than statistics, but stats are a part of the equation. And make no doubt, Wolters fares well on the eye test as well. Because of his weak schedule, each game against legit competition is important, and Wolters has a big game December 4th against Minnesota that should be fun.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Preview of Tonight's Action

Tonight marks the start of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and with all the conference re-alignment, maybe one of the last as its going to start getting hard to keep track of which teams are actually in these conferences.

Games to Watch:

Indiana vs North Carolina 9:30 ESPN

Why not get this one out of the way first? James Michael McAdoo vs Cody Zeller. Two guys that could use a big game to get momentum moving in their direction again. At this point, McAdoo is facing questions about his post skills while Zeller has detractors saying he can't create separation. Both do have nice feel and footwork in the post and that should be on display tonight.

Zeller will have to deal with an athletic North Carolina frontline and also Joel James' monster frame. Don't expect Zeller and McAdoo to be matched up a lot.

McAdoo will likely be on Christian Watford most of the time, a guy he should be able to back down a little. McAdoo was quoted in SI today saying he has been focused more on footwork instead of trying to back down anyone, but tonight would be a good night to try to show some toughness against Watford.

Watford will drag him out to the perimeter and force McAdoo to show his perimeter defense skills. Some actually think McAdoo can play some small forward at the next level, but I highly doubt it.

I'm also interested in seeing Reggie Bullock against Victor Oladipo, two energy small forwards I am really high on. Both play great defense and run the court, but their offensive games couldn't be more different. It will be interesting to see how they compete against each other as they should cover one another.

Finally, it may be Jordan Hulls and PJ Hairston that steal the headlines from the big names. Hairston has came on strong as of late and always looks to shoot when he's in. Hulls is extremely tough and a great leader - one of the best in the country. He's slowly developing a reputation as Indiana's go to guy in big games and could steal the headlines.

North Carolina State vs Michigan 7:30 ESPN

Leading the night off for ESPN will be a matchup that may actually feature more future pros than its nightcap. We have Trey Burke vs Lorenzo Brown, both of whom could be drafted in the first round. Lorenzo Brown has already been abused by the younger Marcus Smart this season and can't afford to get worked again. It may be in the cards though, as Burke has been carving up defenses since he's stepped on campus. With the emergence of other scorers, Im interested to see if Burke starts to vanilla down his game more and turn into more of a facilitator. He can dominate the ball at times.

On the wings, Hardaway Jr is coming off one of the best stretches of his career and Glenn Robinson III looks like a real stud. Hardaway will see a lot of freshman Rodney Purvis, who has been one of the bright spots for NC State early on. He has played with great energy and should present a solid test for Hardaway.

Glenn Robinson III may get a chance to step up into a bigger role tonight if he draws Scott Wood on offense. Robinson has taken a back seat to Michigan's backcourt, but has been very efficient in his chances. A chance to see Robinson III take advantage of Wood in an increased workload would be nice.

Robinson may also see some TJ Warren who has joined Purvis as the lone bright spots for NC State. Warren just has a knack for scoring and getting easy baskets around the hoop. He also has great touch on his jumper. He's one to watch out for down the road.

Inside, Michigan has a very smart frontcourt that could use CJ Leslie's aggressiveness against him. Jordan Morgan and Mitch McGary move their feet well and understand defensive positioning. Leslie could be in for a long night. Richard Howell is usually solid.

One thing to watch for is Michigan's pick and roll defense. They are very aggressive in their hedging and take the ball out of the ball handlers hand, but leave themselves vulnerable to other open players. NC State has shot 3s at a better than 40% clip this season thanks to Scott Wood and Rodney Purvis. If Lorenzo Brown runs the point like he should (which he hasn't) and finds the open man off of picks, NC State has a chance at the upset.

This is a big game for Brown who has found his stock dropping quickly so far. He's talented but has shown terrible decision making and a lack of leadership. From an upperclassman, that is unacceptable.

Minnesota vs Florida State 7:15 ESPN2

Minnesota vaulted themselves into the top 25 after a solid showing in the Battle 4 Atlantis. Florida State has started to play better after opening the season with an ugly loss to South Alabama. Both teams can get after it on defense and it starts with Michael Snaer and Rodney Williams, two of the better players in the country.

And while they can really get after it on defense, its the offensive end where they will need to show what they can do tonight. Snaer has been great at getting to the line all year and I'd like to see him do it against a strong perimeter defense and the always lurking Williams. For Rodney, Id just like to see him continue to hit jumpers and attack aggressively from the perimeter. We know his skills aren't great, but he's done a nice job putting his athleticism to use this year.

There are some other marginal prospects in this game - Ian Miller, Andre Hollins, Austin Hollins, and Okaro White - and they all should have some chances to go up against each other. Andre Hollins just dropped 41 points on Memphis and he should be over the hangover of elated-ness that caused him to only score 8 against Stanford.

Also, Trevor Mbakwe will be continued to be monitored to see how his athleticism is coming along. He's coming off the best game of his young season.

Also check out Maryland's Alex Len take on Northwestern and Pittsburgh and Steven Adams against Howard. Maryland has been playing well and should get the win, but Alex Len hasn't had another game that has rivaled his opening performance against Kentucky.

Adams received criticism for his recent play, but its all part of a process. Adams wasn't any worse than he was when I wrote about him at the start of the year, he just went up against some tougher competition. He actually has been showing noticeable improvements each game.

His 13 points in 24 minutes last game against Delaware are misleading as most of his points came in the final minutes, but the confidence that it gives him could be big. Adams was able to hit a jumper and finish in transition and off of a pick and roll. He showed the flashes that make his potential so mouth watering. Facing Howard tonight is good timing, as Dixon can use this game to focus on building off that confidence Adams gained from last game. I expect tonight to be the best chance to see what Adam's is capable of doing so far. He is going to continue to get better each game. His stock is fine.  

All-American Doug McDermott

After playing alongside Harrison Barnes in high school, Doug McDermott is used to being overlooked. He was a solid big man alongside Barnes that did the little things. His play was admired, but not celebrated. His teammate Barnes was being compared to Kobe Bryant. Nobody was comparing McDermott to Larry Bird.

Barnes left North Carolina to be a lottery pick over the summer and now finally McDermott has a chance for the spotlight. He went into this season as the top returning scorer in college basketball and one of the favorites to win National Player of the Year. His team is no longer underlooked either - they look to be a legitimate top 15, maybe even top 10 team.

Now McDermott has expectations. His game will be placed under a microscope. All of this, yet Im not sure fans understand what his game is all about.

McDermott is an outstanding shooter, hitting over 48% from deep last year. But that shouldn't define his game. If anything, the mystique of his shooting ability may be overrated, which in turn underrates what all he brings to the table.

McDermott only made 1.5 3-pt shots per game last year. He's far from a product of his father's system. He's far from a one trick pony that runs around screens all day to get him open looks. He's not one of those leading NCAA scorers playing on a high possession team or a team that doesn't win. He doesn't take bad shots and he isn't even the focus of the offense. 

His dad isn't the coach of Grinnell College and McDermott isn't Jack Taylor. McDermott is a basketball player and one of the best in the country.

All in all, McDermott is different from your average NCAA scoring leader.

Despite his preseason accolades, its time for him to get credit for all he does. None of it is circumstantial - he is legitimately one of the best players in the country. He is. I'm not sure people really believe that when they place him on All-American teams.

First of all, McDermott is a heck of a post player. That is his bread and butter in the college game. Around 3 shots per game come from deep, but plenty more come from inside the paint (nearly 3 quarters). McDermott is a relentless worker in the post, never allowing the opponent to catch him relaxed and at mercy of being pushed around. McDermott is the aggressor and takes it to the opponent before they can take it to him. He sprints down the court as if there is a sale on prime real estate near the rim each and every time.

McDermott gets to the line and is doing his best job at it this year. He's getting to the line nearly 7 times this year in only 29 minutes. He does an excellent job drawing contact and does an even better job at finishing through it. He displays great body control and is able to use his body to get his short shots at the rim off against longer defenders. He absorbs the contact, shows great concentration on the rim, and has great touch with either hand. The biggest thing may be his competitiveness - he is not going to be denied getting the rim.

McDermott can score through the Hansbrough method, but also has great footwork in the paint and a high skill level. Consistently finishing up and unders, hook shots, and occasionally a turnaround jumper, McDermott is one of the most skilled post players in the country. And one of the most true.

All this talk about stretch forwards and McDermott's transition to the SF in the pros, yet McDermott is a pure power forward at Creighton. Its a huge part of his game. He relishes the contact and the physicality inside. He rebounds well despite his 6-8 wingspan and his shortcomings athletically. His feel for the power forward position is outstanding and would be tough to take away at the next level.

He shows great feel in the paint without the ball - not just with his constant work to get open in the post, but coming around screens and finding the soft area of the defense. His savvy knowledge of how to get open combined with his constant fight to get open equates to him getting good looks. Simple really. 

Creighton's offense is one of the best in the country and very fun to watch. In a lot of ways, McDermott is just another player. He almost looks like a role player with the way he has to scrap on offense. He doesn't have a large amount of plays for him and he scraps at the hoop. He crashes the offensive glass, runs the court in transition, really, he does just about everything to get the ball in the hoop. There is a lot that goes into McDermott scoring 23 points per game and the biggest thing is hustle. I'd say he gets half of his points off hustle, but then again, his scoring ability is testament to his motor. 

Getting through a McDermott article without touching much on his shooting is actually quite easy. Its not his game. He shot over 60% from the field last year. That is truly remarkable. There is so much about McDermott's game you are missing out on if you just assume he is a shooter. 

And there will be so much about his game in the pros that you will miss out on if you treat him just as a spot up threat. 

Herein lies the hard part - what to make of McDermott's pro potential.

And with that, I'm out. Somethings are just more fun to watch unfold.

Monday, November 26, 2012

BJ Young vs Jahii Carson Video Highlights

Because who honestly wouldn't want to see highlights of two of the most dynamic guards in the country against each other?

BJ Young scored 29 points, barely missing his career high of 31 he set against Florida last year. He did most of his work in the first 3 quarters of the game before Arizona State slowly distanced themselves. Young did a great job of picking his spots in this game. He made some nice cuts off the ball, slashed to the paint, and displayed excellent body control to finish inside. Young has no trouble scoring in the halfcourt setting.

video
Carson had 19, which was actually the second lowest scoring game of his short 5 game career. He has led an Arizona State attack that is much more of a up and down team than the Herb Sendek teams of the past. Sendek has always been an underated coach and I applaud him for changing his style to suit his players. Sendek has never sought acknowledgement and has put aside his ego to also higher two great assistant coaches with NBA coaching experience. Big moves for Jahii Carson's development.
Carson has been a joy to watch so far and is averaging 21 points on 48% shooting. He is always in attack mode and aggressively uses pick and rolls. He has a natural ability to get to the basket and elite athleticism to boot. Carson will have to work on balancing out his game as the season goes on to be less turnover prone and more of a facilitator, but he's off to a great start on the year. He can shoot alright too - he's hit 6-13 threes and is 37-49 from the charity stripe. Oddly enough, 2 of those 12 misses have been airballs from the line.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thoughts on Duke vs Minnesota

- Duke came away with a really impressive win against Minnesota, beating them 89-71. Their starting five is scary good and they mesh well together. Each of them know their roles and there is plenty of experience between them.

Plumlee has taken over as one of the senior leaders. He has played with a great motor so far this season and is finally looking the way a Duke senior should. He killed Minnesota and Elliott Elliason in the first half, registering a double-double. In the process, he got Elliason sent to the bench - where he should have been anyway.

- Each of their starters scored in double figures and they showed great balance, but Seth Curry was the guy they went to when they needed a bucket. He was a magician out there today, showing a better array of moves than in the past to get off his jumper. He finished with 25 points and couldn't miss from the field.

- Sulaimon was their lowest scoring member of the starting 5 with 11 points. He was also their best at getting to the hoop and also arguably their best passer. He gives Duke the perimeter defender they need. I'm a big fan.

- Minnesota has a nice starting lineup as well, but Tubby needs to whittle down his rotation. For one, I dont think they have the inside depth to ever play Rodney Williams at SF. He played a few minutes there today and I didnt get it. Hes a better player at the PF and Minnesota has more depth on their wings.

Elliason looked terrible, but I liked the minutes Maurice Walker gave them. His conditioning leaves a lot to be desired, but if I were Tubby I'd try to stick close to a Williams/Mbakwe/Walker rotation inside.

- For their guards, he needs to trim the fat in the same way. Or maybe it was just a case where one guy had a bad game and the other had a good game. Either way, Julian Welsh looked awful while Maverick Ahanmisi did a nice job scoring off the bench. Based on their career numbers, it could just be a case of one game. We'll see.

Anyway, there is no doubting that the Hollins duo should be getting the majority of the minutes. I've finally decided that Austin is looks like the better pro. Neither had a great game but the talent is there. Tough matchup against Duke's guards.

- Rodney Williams may be the quickest and most explosive leaper in the country with all due respect to Doug Anderson of Detroit. He had at least 3 emphatic dunks at the rim and chased down two guys in transition for block shots (one ended up being a goaltending call, but still impressive). His motor was certainly running today. He also hit a spot up 3-pt attempt and easily beat a Duke defender to the rim on drives from the perimeter.

He still doesnt have a good feel on offense and probably never will, but if he hits the jumper with consistency, that may be enough for him to have a solid NBA career. His defense is obviously his calling card.

- Mbakwe is still coming off the bench and only played 18 minutes. Not sure he is in good enough shape yet to play a full game. I am sure that he has yet to get back some of that explosiveness that he had prior to his injuries. Also, Plumlee appeared to tower over him.

Johnny Dawkins Has Found Himself A Guard

After spending 10 years coaching at Duke from 1998-2008, Johnny Dawkins has spent his last few years on the west coast trying to emulate some of the success at his alma mater. It has been a rough process as Stanford has had marginal success in his four years, finally posting a respectable 69 RPI last season after a strong finish that resulted in the NIT Championship.

Part of the strong finish had to do with freshman guard Chassan Randle, who scored 15 points on 6-11 shooting in the championship game against Minnesota, a good defensive team. Randle is a different guard than what Stanford is used too - maybe the most dynamic since Brevin Knight - a guard who can score with ease and also play some point guard.

He is the kind of player that Dawkins has been after since coming from Duke. A top 100 recruit from outside of Stanford's recruiting grounds in Chicago. A change of pace from the laid back California guards who act as floor generals and floor spacers.

Ever since Dawkins witnessed Randle first handle dropping 34 points in high school in the sectional finals for the win (Randle's Rock Island HS was a major underdog), Dawkins knew this could be a kid who could instill in the rest of the players what he wants his team to be about.

Randle displayed that killer instinct, swagger, and competitiveness that Dawkins had been missing since his days at Duke. At Duke, Dawkins had witnessed plenty of those types of guards run through his system - from Chris Duhon up to Nolan Smith - and Randle is a guy who could definitely play under Coach K.

Its funny, because the first player I thought of while watching Randle was Daniel Ewing. Both are scorers who can man the point. They both play like slashers, but also have a great shooting touch. Both have similar body types and that winning attitude.

Looking back and comparing their numbers - they are nearly identical.

Take Ewing's junior season and compare it to Randle's season last year. Ewing took 6.3 2-pt shots that year and 6.2 shots from behind the arc. Randle took 6.5 2-pt shots and 6.6 3-pt shots. That incredible balance and all around ability is what makes them both great scorers. They also both went to the foul line about 4 times (4.0 and 4.3 to be exact), while hitting at a solid clip (74% and 76%), but not as much as their 3-pt % would suggest (41.1 and 43.8).

The similarities are stunning to be honest. Rebounds, turnovers, and assists are also all nearly identical.

Randle mimics Ewing's game as well. Randle is like a Duke guard in that he can run the point, but has a lot of free will to score from his position. After playing mostly shooting guard last year for Stanford, Randle has been the point guard officially a lot more this year, but as a guard in the system, he is still free to do the same things. Just like how Nolan Smith and Ewing did in their days at Duke.

Randle is also a solid athlete with good size for the point guard position. His athleticism won't blow you away in the freakish sense, but he has plenty of quickness to get into the lane when he wants too. Randle isn't a true point but plays very smart and is saavy in the pick and roll game. He can turn the corner with long strides and has a great handle in the lane. Once he gets to full speed, he is a tough guy to get in front of.

Finishing the ball, Randle's long arms come into play. He is a good finisher because of his arms, but also because he can finish creatively with either hand. He can even put up a floater from both sides.

Defensively, he is a competitor and brings intensity. His length, lateral quickness, and smarts give him the potential to be an above average defender in the NBA.

Randle looks like a four year player and his potential isn't super high, but he could be a late first or early second rounder when he chooses to come out. And I like his chances to have a better NBA career than Daniel Ewing. But like a lot of scoring guards, it depends on the kind of situation he finds himself in.

(all stats used are from Draftexpress.com and based on 40 minutes of play adjusted for pace)

Introducing Glenn Robinson III

In the biggest game of the night, especially from an NBA draft perspective, Trey Burke led the way with 17 points. Steven Adams only played 10 unspectacular minutes. Hardaway was Michigan's second leading scorer with 16 points for Michigan, who won a close one 67-62.

But Glenn Robinson III will be the biggest mover on my big board after last night. Before last night, I had him ranked 27th. I hadn't seen him enough to feel comfortable moving him higher than that, but I had seen him enough for him to stand out to me.

After a early blocked shot in the first half, I acknowledged on twitter that I probably had him too low. I actually had felt that all along, but there is no sense is rushing things.

But now?

Now, I'm ready to move him up towards the lottery. At this point, finding holes in his game is simply nitpicking. Someone tweeted last night that GRIII is better than Shabazz and I surprisingly couldn't argue. I couldn't point out flaws in Robinson's game. There really aren't even many things to make you have the slightest doubt that he will be a great player.

Part of it may be expectations. Shabazz is expected to save UCLA while all Robinson has to do his pick his spots.

But Robinson has been excellent in that role. He was a late bloomer in high school and analysts questioned his aggressiveness on offense. He wasn't the player who would go off for 40 points like Shabazz. But Robinson was efficient and knew how to play on the offensive end.

And boy is that evident now. Robinson has shown a terrific feel on offense - his awareness and ability to pick his spots is off the charts. Its early, but I have yet to see him out of control or force up a shot. His points come so effortlessly. Everything he does reminds you of a prototypical SF.

Right now, Robinson is shooting 64.5% from the field and hitting 3s at a 50% clip. His jumpshot looks very good and he always displays perfect balance when going up for a shot. He has shown the ability to put it on the floor for one or two dribbles to either side. He's hitting his jumpers at an exceptional rate, as thats where a good percentage of his field goals are coming from.

But only 25% are from long range. Robinson is far from a spot up shooter. He uses his mind to get shit shot attempts. He also does a nice job cutting to the hoop and hitting the offensive glass. His body has come a long way to the point where it is actually a strength. He can finish through contact and has the potential to be a great rebounding wing.

His game is just so mature for his age. And he's only 18.

No need to jump the gun, but as the season goes on Robinson's hype should increase dramatically. His numbers may not stay the way they are, but even a 18 year old SF with a perfect frame and great touch on a top 5 team....

posting a line of 14ppg on over 50% shooting and 40% from 3? With 6 boards per game and a positive A/TO ratio?

There will come a point when more people start to ask what Shabazz can do that Robinson can't. And once that happens, maybe Robinson could even push himself into the top 5.

Honestly, the sky is the limit with this kid.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Marquette vs Southern California

After getting blown out by Illinois and then getting their first win in Maui against Texas, up a fight against Marquette. They ended up losing 72-64, but it was an entertaining game.

Junior Cadouan has always been a steady point guard on both ends and was good again today. He never stands out, but just does his thing and provides a steady hand on the ball. Once Blue went out with an injury, Cadougan finally made his presence known by closing out the game. He scored all 11 points in the second half - when he was needed. Defensively, he shut down Jio Fontan which conversely, may have kept USC in the game.

There is the Ewing Theory where teams are better without a certain player. I would say this is applicable to Jio Fontan, but it is generally used when a player gets injured. Fontan was still in the game, he just was unable to launch up as many shots as he normally does. For this, its kind of like the opposite of what Shane Battier likes to do.

If Battier was playing, he would have let Fontan take as many forced contested jumpers inside the arc as he would have liked. Its what Fontan normally does and it leads to a very stoic offense. Nobody else gets involved and Fontan shoots a low percentage while turning it over.

Today, Fontan couldnt get a shot off which is saying a lot - he always manages to find a way to shoot. It put him in facilitating mode early and he actually used his quickness and ability to slash to get his teammates going.

He found the hot hand of JT Terrell, who ended up hitting five 3-pt shots on the night.

That kept them in the game, but ultimately Marquette's cohesiveness overcame a hot shooting night of one of the group of transfers Kevin O'Neill is trying to mend together.

If Cadougan is the steady hand of Marquette, Vander Blue is the opposite hand that shakes up the drink a little. Blue has a point guard's build, but has never had the pass-first mentality. He was coming off two good games against Butler and Mississippi State and showed some more nice things today.

He finished with only 6 points on 3-11 shooting, but made his impact felt. His shooting appears to be improved from his previous two season, shooting 5-11 from three this year. He didn't make a three today, but did hit a long 2 off the dribble on a one on one move.

Blue is a good ball handler and a crafty passer when he has his head up. He dribbles a lot though and his dribble is usually intended to create his own shot. He is able to weave through defenders with a crafty handle and quick change of direction, and gets off the court quickly when rising towards the rim.

Unfortunately, Blue doesn't have much of a position at the next level. Perhaps his best quality is his defense, which appears to be more disciplined this year. That is his best hope to make the league. He will probably stay for his senior season, but I doubt he will take over point guard. Blue has never had the maturity or mentality of a natural point guard and top 100 recruit Duane Wilson could start.

Other notes:

Devante Gardner is super crafty in the post and is impossible to keep out of the paint. In fact, Kevin O'Neill was complaining to get a 3 seconds in the key call all came. It is very fun to watch him execute below the rim post moves - he has a quick release and a very soft touch.

He abused Dewayne Dedmon down low and Dedmon picked up a technical and probably should have picked up another one later in the game. Dedmon should have been frustrated against Gardner, but he needs to learn to deal with it because this could be a frustrating campaign for him. His guards didn't get him any touches, well ok, he got 2 touches by my count. One he made the bucket through contact and got the foul shot. The other he found a teammate for a nice assists. He finished with 3 points and 1 assist - go figure. Dedmon may not be a draftable player, but he deserves a better chance than this. He has a nice body, shows some fight, and is active. He's rebounding the ball at a nice clip as well.

Jamil Wilson appears poised for the Hayward/Butler/Crowder role. At 6-7, Wilson is able to get own shot and has been hitting jumpers at a nice clip. He blocks some shots and picked up two steals today. He's not exactly in the same class as his predecessors, but he looked good today.


The Barclay's Curse? Legend Classic Doesn't Live Up to Name

Do not be alarmed. The Legends Classic brought 4 good games of basketball to Barclays Center over the past two days. It was a great showcase of talent and solid field. Indiana ended up living up to their number one ranking while winning an exciting overtime thriller against Georgetown.

But LEGENDS?

This tournament brought us our first look at Shabazz Muhammad, a potential first overall selection. But he struggled along with the rest of the UCLA team.

It also featured Cody Zeller, another contender for the number one position. Indiana took home the trophy, but Zeller looked very human in the process. He struggled to create separation in the post and with his 6-10 wingspan, those shots will end up getting blocked in the NBA.

Neither player took a step towards the "legend" platform. These games only brought up more questions.

Both players had a chance to grab an early lead in the wide open race for the first overall pick. This year is the most open race since the 2006 draft when Andrea Bargnani went first and its looking like it could stay that way.

In recent years, the number one guys all started off with a hot start to drive up the hype train - Davis, Irving, Wall, and Griffin.

I've never looked at Zeller as a great option first overall and figured someone would step up early. So far, that hasnt happened.

There were some quotes from NBA executives after the Monday Night's slate of games at Barclay's that summed up this thinking.

Essentially, scouts think this will be a draft where the top teams would rather have multiple picks later on in the first instead of in the top 5. The choice at number one could depend on which team is picking - different from years past where there has been a consensus best player.

More players could enter the mold for number one. Nerlens Noel is certainly in the discussion, but failed to impress in his college debut, also at Barclay's.

It seems that Barclay's got its NBA team, but is in no hurry to push the next era of superstars to the next level. Perhaps the arena wants to try to delay their NBA dreams a few years, just like their dream of hosting a NBA franchise was delayed.

Call it the Barclay's Curse.

Disclaimer: I don't believe in curses. 

Video Highlights from BJ Young's 2nd Game Back

After missing Arkansas' first game due to suspension, BJ Young came back against Longwood and to score 23 points in a 112-63 route against what looks to be once of the worst teams in D1. His second game was against Florida A&M last night, another blowout, which had Arkansas winning 89-60.

Mike Anderson's style of play is hitting stride in his second year, thanks to the depth provided by the 9 new faces on Arkansas' roster. Anderson has been rotating a lot of bodies and Young has only played a combined 45 minutes so far. They have been running at every chance they get and Young has gotten plenty of easy looks on the break. In the halfcourt, Young has looked to facilitate this year even though he technically starts the game at the SF spot.

So far, Young has looked solid in the small sample size. Arkansas runs a lot of pick and roll sets in halfcourt and Young has a good feel on how to attack it. He will never be a point guard, but showing combo guard skills is necessary for his NBA future. Some see Young as a lottery pick this year, while I am less bullish. He has the potential, but has a lot more learning to do.

Check the video below for highlights from last night - he had 12 points on 4-12 shooting while dishing out 3 assists. He only took one 3-pt which he missed, as he got most of his opportunities near the rim. He struggled to convert in the paint last night.

video

Sean Kilpatrick's Draft Stock

Sean Kilpatrick has emerged from a off the bench scoring threat his freshman year to the best player on Cincinnati's top 25 team this season, this being his junior campaign. Turning 23 in January, Kilpatrick's time is running up and should at least test the draft waters this year. His upside is limited, but as a mature shooter, Kilpatrick could be the type of guy who can be drafted in the second round and contribute right away.

Kilpatrick's calling card is his ability to shoot. Last year he took 56% of his shots from deep. He has a quick release which allows him to get shots up with little space and always has his shoulders square to the hoop. He shows good balance and is able to pump fake to keep defenders honest and pull up in the mid-range area as well, where he is also very good.

While Kilpatrick is a shooter, I wouldn't classify him amongst the elite shooters in college basketball. He's more of a streaky shooter who will have some nights where he front rims everything. His free throw shooting testifies to this, as he is a career 71% shooter.

Kilpatrick does have a more rounded offense game than other shooters in this draft like CJ Wilcox, Caldwell-Pope, and Reggie Bullock. He's shooting slightly less threes this year and has made his offensive impact felt in other ways. Last night against Campbell, he only had 4 first half points but I was encouraged to see him still involved and creating for his teammates.

Kilpatrick has only a solid first step, not much of a left hand, and no real advanced ball moves but when he hits the lane, he shows good balance and keeps his head up to find teammates. He showed the ability to find teammates near the rim and also drive and kick last night. He also cut off the ball and used his solid frame to get looks inside.

Kilpatrick has trouble finishing though, as he is right hand dominant, and lacks great length and explosiveness. He has the body to absorb contact and it also is a reason he can drive the lane despite average skills, but he is still an average finisher at best.

I liked what I saw from Kilpatrick's overall offensive game last night, but it doesn't change much for him. He is still turning 23. He still is a streaky shooter. And he still isn't a very good ball handler or finisher. His confidence and ability to play under control will allow him to maximize his average gifts this season, but it doesn't make his ceiling for the NBA very high. Still, it is good to see a shooter that is not completely one dimensional. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Victor Oladipo Gets No Respect

If I made an all-breakout team this year, Oladipo would have probably been on it. He was on the verge of breaking out last year, scoring double digits in 7 straight conference games before getting nicked up against Michigan State. That seemed to affect him the rest of the season, but he provided a nice going away present against star-studded Kentucky where he scored 15 points in only 20 minutes due to foul trouble.


Oladipo is a guy who came to college as a great defender and role player. He played at DeMatha in high school alongside Quinn Cook, Mikael Hopkins, and Jerian Grant. He wasn't asked to do much handling, as the Stags had an All-American point guard and a wing who averaged 5 assists in his freshman year at Notre Dame. I saw Oladipo in this time and came away with the impression that he was just a complimentary wing that played hard.

Three years later, Oladipo still has that same motor and ability to fit in with other good players - only he is doing it for the #1 team in the nation at Indiana. He averaged 10.8 ppg last year and shot 47% from the floor. He shot above the 50% threshold inside the arc and got to the line nearly as much as fellow wings like Austin Rivers, Harrison Barnes, LeBryan Nash, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. In conference play, Oladipo's free throw rate looked more like a big man and he surpassed Barnes, Rivers, and Nash in terms of getting to the line.

Oladipo's driving ability, in my opinion, is more impressive than all of them. He has an extremely quick first step and enters the lane with no fear. He can isolate himself at the top of the key, using a swaying crossover before attacking, or head straight for the rim off the wing. Oladipo's experience in the lane always has you holding his breath - he enters the lane at such speed and seems short of options - yet he has shown ability to avoid picking up charges by contorting his body. Oladipo, while not having the surest of handle, manages to somehow stay under control at 100mph, and weave his way to the hoop. It is really impressive to watch - I get excited every time Oladipo takes to the top of the key and starts measuring up his defender. When that happens, there is little doubt that Oladipo will end up with the defender in tow split seconds later. He is that quick.

His ball handling has improved much over his career and it seems that he has a great work ethic. His improvement in this area has allowed him to take advantage of his excellent first step, but moreso, show off good strength and tremendous explosiveness at the rim. He is a very quick jumper who can go off of either foot. 

Oladipo can also initiate a bit of offense off the dribble, looking like a bit of a combo guard at times. He is a rare breed of guys who can conjure up offense out of nowhere.

Defensively, he fouls too often, but plays with a lot of intensity. He will go for a steals and gets a fair amount of them thanks to his great hands. He also does a great job of using his jumping ability to its fullest to get rebounds at the top of their apex. Oladipo is a solid leader and can step up even more this year.

Part of his next step, is learning to slow down consistently, but he needs to develop a jumper. He seems to be able to get the mid-range shot, but at this point its a more efficient move to head into the lane. Oladipo's shot is a big concern and may be the reason some scouts haven't given him much of a chance, but that could end up in a mistake. Whoever gets Oladipo will be a lucky team.

This is a typical situation where teams miss out on what a guy can bring to a team because they are too busy at looking what he can't do. Oladipo has things you can't teach - athleticism, a NBA body, an excellent first step, explosiveness, and most of all, a terrific sense of competitive nature and work ethic. I'd much rather believe Oladipo can develop a jumpshot than believe PJ Hairston can learn to be effective without shooting once per two minutes.

Right now sites have Oladipo ranked 62 (Draftexpress), 110 (Chad Ford), 87 (NBADraftNet), and NBADraftInsider has him listed as the 10th best shooting guard. 

Me?

I've got him 35th - a late first rounder depending on who declares. He scored a season high 15 points last night against Georgia and as the games get even bigger, you can believe that Oladipo's game will as well.

Tune in tonight to watch him against projected lottery pick Otto Porter. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Shabazz makes debut, but the Hoyas Get the Win

The atmosphere was set at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn for UCLA, ready to unveil its star recruit Shabazz Muhammad against unranked Georgetown. Shabazz came off the bench for Howland, who has to give a lot of credit to the star recruit for perhaps saving his job, and the crowd creeped towards the edge of their seats to get a look at the future NBA lottery pick.

The script was set for UCLA (favored by 6) to get the win and put themselves back on the map. After the Sports Illustrated article last year, Howland was ready to start a new chapter for UCLA, a chapter that involved high character kids including other prized recruit Kyle Anderson. Georgetown got off to the early lead, but when Shabazz came off the at just under 14 minutes, the lead was only 4. Shabazz came in and pulled up for his first shot - a mid-range jumper - and it went straight through the hoop.

14-12 Georgetown - here comes UCLA.

Georgetown was being outscored in transition and on the break - two indicators that the Bruins could start to pull away. The biggest indicator though, was #15 in blue.

The country didn't know this Georgetown team though. They matched up well with the Bruins, sporting two big wings of their own in Greg Whittington and Otto Porter. The Hoyas play the way the Bruins need to play. They share the basketball and allow their 6-8 versatile forward, Otto Porter, to help facilitate the offense. UCLA, with their own 6-8 point forward in Kyle Anderson, had an up close look how it was done.

Greg Whittington was hot early. He was stepping out and hitting jumpers and gave Shabazz his first "welcome to the NCAA moment". Shabazz had an attempt on the break and went straight at Whittington - only to get hung up in the air as Whittington prevented the shot from getting out of his hands.

It wasn't the last time Shabazz landed on the floor and got in the mix in the painted area. Otto Porter was able to post him up down low for a couple of buckets. Shabazz returned the favor against Georgetown's small Jabril Trawick, hitting a close range turnaround jumper in his face. Shabazz went hard to the hoop each time he had the chance and probably has the bruises to show for it. He attacks the rim with a fearlessness much like a Dwyane Wade.

His debut was viewed as a bit of a disappointment for NBA scouts, but keep in mind he had only had a few days of practice due to a high ankle sprain. He poured in 15 points effortlessly in 25 minutes, showcasing a nice stroke from outside. Muhammad's release is effortless and he doesn't have much extra movement in his shot. He struggled on defense, but covering guys like Otto Porter is a big change from his days in high school. He mainly was beat defending the post.

UCLA has their work cut out for them defensively. This UCLA team shouldn't go the way of teams in the past because their freshman are high character guys, but the defense should be a major concern. When UCLA went to three straight final fours, their defense was top 3 in the nation each year. This years team has work to do to even be average.

For one, its tough to get a group of new players to learn to play cohesive as a team. With a bunch of freshman and transfer Larry Drew, they have to get used to each other. Even then, guys like Adams, Drew, and Anderson aren't good perimeter defenders. And inside, the Wear twins are good post defenders but dont make anyone think twice about driving the lane. Neither does the immobile Josh Smith who defines the phrase "below the rim center". He also defines a waste of potential, but we will save that for a rainy day.

Without that defense, UCLA may have to turn to a higher octane offense and go in a different direction from teams of the past. It seems Howland may already be doing that if the pace of their game today is any indicator. This Bruins team may look to run and it'd certainly be a good fit. Teams of the past played a strict halfcourt style that often limited the teams guards, resulting in them getting overlooked in the NBA Draft.

With a host of good guards this year and a unconventional Kyle Anderson, the Bruins could maximize their potential and hide their defensive holes by running. With Howland's job possibly on the brink, its within the realm to imagine him changing up his style.

As for Georgetown, their famous style is working just fine. I talked about them earlier this season calling them a sleeper, so this game comes as little surprise to me. Porter and Whittington are a special combo that when paired together creates major problems for opponents. The Hoyas can play them at the wing positions and overwhelm the opposition with size on defense and not suffer on offense.

The biggest question with them is their ability to hit the outside shot. Whittington was 1-8 on the year before going 3-4 tonight. His shot looks solid though, and I did see him hit some long 2-pt baskets in his other games. As for Porter, he rarely looks for the jumper but made both of his 3s tonight. He doesn't get off a lot of jumpers and has a slow release, bringing the ball down to his hip before firing.

Porter finished with 18 points and filled up the rest of the stat sheet with steals, blocks, assists, and rebounds. You can't help but to love his game. He is one of the best all around players in college basketball and perhaps the best at contributing to wins in ways other than scoring. This makes him invaluable at the college level and very intriguing at the next level. The NBA doesn't necessarily need guys who can score.

Still, Porter's biggest question will revolve around how he can score at the next level. Porter gets a lot of his baskets off cuts, transition, putbacks, and post up plays. As a small forward, Porter needs to show at least either a jumper or the ability to drive the lane consistently and finish. And his jumper is broken right now.

Porter also is a bit slow on his feet, yet his outstanding feel for the game tends to make up for it. Scouts in general came away impressed with him tonight, but this is just a typical game for Mr. Porter.

The high point man in this game was actually UCLA's Jordan Adams. He's been a pleasant surprise this season and wasn't going to take a back seat to Muhammad tonight. He jacks up shots at a high rate, prompting Jonathan Givony to make a Jordan Hamilton comparison.

Obviously, he probably didn't mean it as a comparison on their games too, but I think Adams is a lot better college player than Hamilton was his freshman year. Hamilton's freshman year consisted of a comical amount of ridiculous 3-pt attempts and not much else.

Adams loves his jumper the same way, but shows a lot more intelligence on both ends of the court. He is a better driver, has good instincts on when to cut, plays tough inside, and seems to really want to win. His body control is worlds better than Hamilton's. He has a great natural touch on his shots and is automatic from the free throw line.

In terms of NBA stock though, his potential is much less intriguing than Hamilton's. He plays below the rim and his body dimensions are very unusual for a shooting guard. Along with being a chucker, Adams has some obstacles to climb over if he wants to be a first round pick anytime soon.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic

The Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic was a small event in Connecticut that didn't come with a lot of fanfare. It featured some solid teams though in Rhode Island, Washington, and Seton Hall and allowed us to get our first look at a top 5 program - the Ohio State Buckeyes. The Buckeyes won the event without much of a scare, beating Washington 77-66 in the championship.

Some notes:

- Deshaun Thomas was the story in the championship, scoring 15 points on 7-8 shooting in the first 9 minutes of the game. Thomas scored in every way imaginable - off the pick and pop, in the post, off putbacks, and spotting up in the corner. His offensive acumen looks much like a stretch forward and his position on defense is undefined. Thomas has played tougher this season, battling inside and digging in more defensively. Still, he's a big time tweener who is a black hole on offense. Thomas takes shots that nobody else should take - plenty of long contested 2-pt shots - yet he is never phased by a hand in his face. It makes him an interesting prospect to debate. He is somewhat of last year's Carmelo Anthony to the college game, although his impact at the NBA will be nowhere near the Cuse star. I think Thomas is a late first to early second rounder at this point.

- I profiled Aaron Craft over the summer and I must say, he's shown more offensively than I expected. Craft was getting to the basket with consistency against Washington and finishing with either hand. Craft has always been one of the hardest working players so this shouldnt come as a surprise, but it does boost his stock some. He still needs to work on shooting off the dribble and creating more plays for teammates.

- Shannon Scott was impressive despite scoring just 4 points while racking up 4 fouls. For one, he should have had 6 points but was unable to shoot his FTs late in the game due to a hard fall. Scott looked like he would be ready to next game, though. Shannon Scott ran the point position even with Craft in, and looks to be the better playmaker. He had no trouble getting into the lane and made showed nice vision in setting his teammates up. He only had 1 assists, but had at least two "hockey assists" that Craft ended up getting credit for (Craft finished with 4 assists). Scott also looked good in man to man defense and showed nice end to end speed off steals. He got lost a few times on defense though, and needs to become more vocal next year when he takes over for Craft. Scott will need to play another year to gain experience starting, but he has potential to be a first round pick.

- In both games I watched they mentioned Ohio State observers claiming Sam Thompson is in the Evan Turner mold so I know I heard them right. I like Thompson, arguing for him starting over Ross before the season started, but thats some high praise. I get it somewhat - Thompson has the potential to be a super role player with rebounds, defense, and assists. Still, Turner was much more of a creative and better ball handler. One thing Thompson has that Turner didn't was excellent explosiveness. Thompson needs to work on getting to the rim and gathering himself so he can show the world his crazy hops.

- Washington's Abdul Gaddy is finally starting to look more like the All-American he was billed as. Rob Dauster wrote about him last night after his good game against Seton Hall and he continued his inspired play tonight. Gaddy scored 15 points on 4-6 scoring. It was an impressive performance against Craft's superb defense and Gaddy showed a lot of saavy off the dribble to make it happen. If he keeps it up, he could have a fighting chance at getting drafted. Washington guards have built a good reputation as of late.

- Aziz N'Diaye is hard to move off the block and is a legit seven feet. I've kept tabs on him the last few years and have witnessed marginal improvement. At 24 though, Im afraid the best it will get him is an invitation to Portmouth. N'Diaye runs the court well, rebounds, and maintains position well but still has no post game and below average understanding of defense. Not to mention, he can't put the ball in the basket.

- CJ Wilcox was Washington's high point man, but didn't make himself a huge presence in the game. He is what he is - an excellent shooter with a good frame. That could be enough to get him in the late first round to early second range. He had a nice find for an assist in the game and looked good coming off screens. He's actually scoring less per minute so far then he did with playing with Ross and Wroten last year. He's a guy who does well playing with good playmakers, but isn't going to be a playmaker himself. There are room for guys like that in the NBA.

The Terps Move to the Big Ten: Rivalries, Recruiting, Reaction

As a lifelong Terrapin fan, I have never even imagined the possibility that the Terrapins could ever switch conferences. While all the conference realignment took place, I felt comfortable that the Terrapins were firmly stationed in ACC territory. The ACC had gained Syracuse and Pittsburgh, pushing the ACC back to the top in terms of basketball talent. With the newcomers helping balance out the map, making Maryland more of a central location, the league was even getting away from their deep Carolina roots. Perhaps a ACC tournament at the Verizon Center was in the future?

Syracuse and Pittsburgh could have been new rivals. Both schools have taken to Maryland to gain recruits and Maryland was back on the rise as a national contender. Folks from Maryland already hate everything Pittsburgh, so the Panthers would have been an easy transition. It was upsetting that the Duke games may be limited to one a year, but new blood was lurking in the water. New rivalries in to go with Maryland's new outlook. Maryland was ready to make their jump back to perennial top 25 contender while the ACC was going to take back over the basketball world.

In the ACC, all will go on without the Terps. While Terrapin fans hated Duke, Duke still has North Carolina. The newcomers still have each other, and Virginia can now officially focus on Virginia Tech if they hadn't already. But for Maryland, they are heading into the Big Ten as the outcast, even though they are joined by Rutgers.

A Maryland/Rutgers rivalry would make some sense, but Rutgers just isn't on Maryland's level for basketball. Plus, Rutgers brought the Baltimore area Ray Rice and for that, plenty of Terps fans are grateful. Maryland and Rutgers are in this thing together, bringing their big markets and fertile basketball recruiting grounds closer to the Big Ten so the rest of the teams can receive more viability.

But Maryland fans need a team to hate. They need a Duke. As arguably the most vulgar fan base in the nation, there needs to be a villain. Michigan State knocked the Terrapins out of the NCAA tournament a few years back thanks to a Korie Lucious buzzer beater. And they've matched up a few times in the Big Ten challenge. With the Michigan/Ohio State rivalry, Michigan State is kind of like Maryland was looking on the outside of the UNC/Duke rivalry.

There is also Penn State, who makes the most geographical sense. Plenty of students make their final college decision choosing between Penn State and Maryland around the Baltimore area. At this point, Penn State fans have been way to outspoken over the past year and have hit a nerve with some people. But a basketball rivalry with Penn State? That isn't any fun.

Wisconsin has Iowa, Minnesota has Wisconsin, and Purdue has Indiana. Maryland is kind of left out in the cold. As one Terp graduate suggested to me, Maryland fans should just hate all of the Big Ten with an intense passion. At this point, I imagine everyone would be on board with that. Nobody is liking this move and of course, Terrapin fans don't need much reason to hate.

Thad Matta already spiced things up saying he wasn't even sure what conference Maryland is in. Good one Thad, too bad Gary Williams is the best coach to come from Ohio State.

If I had to choose, I want a rivalry with Indiana. They just lost out on their annual Kentucky game and they could have something against the Terps as well after they lost in the 2001 NCAA title game. Moving forward, Indiana and Maryland could have some epic recruiting battles. Indiana has recently invaded the DMV area after adding a Team Takeover coach to their staff.

Indiana fans may scuffle at the thought at first, but if Maryland's basketball program rises like it appears to be, the recruiting and actual games will come with much at stake.

The recruiting shake up is another thing. Indiana has shown that they can get DMV kids to consider the Big Ten recently. They got Victor Oladipo, Mo Creek, and had a shot at Beejay Anya. In 2014, Indiana has 4 Maryland kids showing consideration, two of them being top 60 players - Dwayne Morgan and Phil Booth. Both of whom have offers from Maryland as well. It should get even easier one Big Ten takes over the TV market. I don't see Maryland losing out on many DMV kids because of the move.

It will eliminate much of the south, however. For example, Maryland is listed as a possibility for 2015 recruit Daniel Giddens (ranked 16th on ESPN). All of his schools listed besides Maryland are south of Virginia and in the ACC or SEC. You can bet the Terps will no longer appeal to players like that.

The good thing that Rutgers will bring is a chance for Maryland to stay relevant in the northern market. That is big. It may actually even help Maryland with guys like Isaiah Whitehead. And of course, Maryland now has a better shot at players in the vast Middle America.

This is helpful for getting a guy like Rashad Vaughn from Minnesota. He's a top ten player, but even though Maryland has offered, seemed like a stretch for them to get. Now, as a member of the Big Ten, it makes this a little more reasonable.

The biggest adaptation may be playing style. Big Ten plays the most unique playing style from any of the other big 6 BCS conference, playing very physical and slower. Maryland's recent additions of players should actually welcome the physical play - Cleare, Mitchell, Howard, and Wells are all big bodies. And if Len stays, he joins a long line of great Big Ten centers.

Maryland vs Indiana. Len vs Zeller. Now I kind of wish this move had happened sooner!


Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Mock Draft With Updated Trades and Team Needs!


1. Washington Wizards - SO Cody Zeller, C, Indiana

Wizards have their backcourt set with Wall and Beal and need a reliable scorer inside. Chris Singleton has actually been one of their better players this year at the power forward position and Vesely still shows signs inside, so finding a skilled big to compliment them would be a good choice.

2. Detroit Pistons - FR Shabazz Muhammad, SG, UCLA

Pretty easy choice for the Pistons. They need a wing badly and their inside is set with Drummond and Monroe.

3. Sacramento Kings - FR Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State

This may be a reach, but only time will tell as the season pans out. What is evident is the Kings need help on the perimeter and Smart is a the kind of young talent that is mature enough to take a leadership role.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers - FR Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh

Cavs could go in a number of directions with their team, but with Andersen Varejao under contract until at least 2014, they can afford to take a project at center.

5. Toronto Raptors (to Oklahoma CIty) - FR Nerlens Noel, F/C, Kentucky

Look who is picking in the top 5 again, the Thunder! A shooting guard would be ideal here, but they do have Jeremy Lamb who has potential. They could make a bit of a surprise pick ala Westbrook and elect for McLemore, but Noel is a more realistic option at this point. With Perkins underperforming  and Thabeet logging minutes, they could want a new center to groom.

6. Orlando Magic - 1992 Rudy Gobert, F/C, Cholet

With Big Baby, Nicholson, and Al Harrington under contract for the next few years, the Magic have nice potential scoring options at one big man spot. Having a guy to do the small things and finish around the rim would be a nice compliment. If the Magic are still shy about drafting international guys, Poythress could fill the void at the 3.

7. Phoenix Suns - FR Ben McLemore, SG, Kansas

The Suns were unable to get a shooting guard last year and still desperately need one. McLemore should rise the draft boards soon enough.

8. New Orleans Hornets - FR Alex Poythress, F, Kentucky

The Hornets really need help scoring, but there aren't many options available around the perimeter. Poythress may not be a great scorer, but will be another player for the Hornets to build around. He will be an instant upgrade of Aminu.

9. Charlotte Bobcats - SO James Michael McAdoo, PF, North Carolina

Usually when the Bobcats take a UNC guy its viewed as a publicity thing, but McAdoo would be great value here. His feel on the offensive end and awareness on defense would pair well with BIyombo and it seems the Cats have found their PG and SF of the future.

10. Portland Trailblazers - SO Tony Mitchell, F, North Texas

I know Portland wants to keep Aldridge at power forward, but they drafted Leonard last year and have to allow him to develop. Mitchell has a huge upside and they can use his athleticism inside. He gives them different look and more importantly, an asset down the road.

11. Utah Jazz - FR Rasheed Sulaimon, G, Duke

I may be a bit ahead on Sulaimon, but its better to be proactive than reactive. I'd rather not mirror other sites nor do I want to throw random names out for shock value. I truly think Sulaimon has potential lottery talent whether he leaves this year or not. The Jazz are going to need some help in the backcourt.

12. Indiana Pacers - SO Trey Burke, PG, Michigan

Pacers need to shake things up and it starts at point guard. Burke is a pure point who can score and also learns quick. He could eventually allow Hill to return to his combo guard role where he is more comfortable.

13. Houston Rockets - JR Andre Roberson, F, Colorado

Its funny to see the Rockets draft another PF, but it is their least productive position. Maybe if they let one guy run with the spot it would be better, but eventually they have to strike gold. Roberson's athleticism is game changing and he can play the 3 alongside a good scorer like Harden too. Morey should be impressed by his rebounding numbers.

14. Golden State Warriors (to Utah) - SO Adonis Thomas, SF, Memphis

Utah on the clock again and still looking for some perimeter help. With Hayward playing a lot of SG, Thomas could potentially be the future starter next to him. He's a big, physical SF - something it seems Utah likes with their fascination of big lineups.

15. Denver Nuggets - SO Alex Len, F/C, Maryland

Koufos is running out of time and Len is one of the better players still left on the board. They need a big that could turn into a back to the basket threat.

16. Atlanta Hawks - FR Archie Goodwin, SG, Kentucky

Hawks are basically starting from scratch and building around Horford so anyone with talent will do. Goodwin is viewed as a top ten talent by most so this is great value.

17. Philadelphia 76ers (to Miami) - JR Reggie Bullock, G/F, North Carolina

Bullock doesn't have a high ceiling, but as a role player, there aren't many more fit to step in a play a role. Miami just need wing players who can defend, run the court, and shoot 3s and thats exactly what Bullock will do.

18. Minnesota Timberwolves (to Phoenix) - SO Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Georgia

They got a game changer at shooting guard in McLemore, but that doesn't mean they cant add a knock down shooter as well. Both players will be needed to sure up the Suns' rotation.

19. Milwaukee Bucks - FR Isaiah Austin, F/C, Baylor

Dont worry Bucks fans, Im sure your pick will be higher than this too. But hey, Austin could still be in the mix if this was in the lottery - he's good value here. Have another skinny player with small bone structure.

20. Chicago Bulls - SR CJ McCollom, G, Lehigh

Word is the Bulls have Bellinelli, Hinrich, and Nate Robinson all playing way too many minutes. Here is some better offense off the bench and a guy that can play some point guard.

21. Dallas Mavericks (to Oklahoma City) - JR Doug McDermott, F, Creighton

Maybe Doug can add a new element to their team. I figure they have too many projects to take on already.

22. Boston Celtics - JR Mike Moser, F, UNLV

Mike Moser is a really good basketball player and his versatility and productivity would be valued off Boston's bench. I think learning from Paul Pierce would be a big help.

23. Los Angeles Lakers (to Cleveland) - SO Otto Porter, SF, Georgetown

They have scorers at the other two perimeter positions so this is a team that Otto Porter could flourish on. I had a hard time finding a good spot for Porter to go, although I like his game. He needs a good fit.

24. Brooklyn Nets - SR Mason Plumlee, F/C, Duke

I can picture Plumlee on the Nets for some odd reason. His rebounding and hustle would be much appreciated next to Brook Lopez.

25. San Antonio Spurs - 1994 Dario Saric, F, KK Zagreb

Saric is a draft and stash based on his contract, but with his talent, the Spurs will eventually find a way to use him.

26. Los Angeles Clippers - FR Glen Robinson III, SF, Michigan

Butler and Odom aren't cutting it, Robinson has advanced knowledge for a freshman on how to play and can develop into a real piece for the Clippers.

27. Oklahoma City Thunder - FR Rodney Purvis, SG, North Carolina State

Thunder can now take a chance on a shooting guard. Purvis can get to the rim better than Jeremy Lamb and has a good stroke from deep as well.

28. New York Knicks - JR Ray McCallum, PG, Detroit

The Knicks have managed to scrap together a solid group of older point guards this year, but still need someone who can lead the team and stretch the defense in the future. McCallum has the range and the schooling to be able to run the Knicks down the line.

29. Memphis Grizzlies (to Minnesota) - SR Elijah Johnson, G, Kansas

Johnson would give the Twolves more athleticism and versatility at the guard position as well as a deep threat.

30. Miami Heat (to Phoenix) - FR Anthony Bennett, F, UNLV

Shooter with a big frame that can help spread the floor.

Friday, November 16, 2012

McLemore Takes off in win against Chattanooga

video
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Highlights of Ben McLemore vs Chattanooga - both videos are different

I wrote after the Michigan State game that with Elijah Johnson at the point guard, Ben McLemore will have a chance to step up as a much needed playmaker for the Jayhawks down the road. With Kansas down as much as 10 points to Chattanooga in the first half, McLemore decided that the time to step up was now.

I'll let the videos do most of the talking, but McLemore was outstanding last night. He was excellent at getting open, moving without the ball and around screens to get multiple open looks on jumpers. He also made some great cuts to the basket for the alley-oop finishes. I'd say his movement without the basketball stood out the most about his game.

McLemore played much more mature than a regular freshman, making some smart skip passes and driving and kicking for a few more assists. And he definitely knows how to get to the foul line - he got there ten times against Chattanooga and made his last 5 after missing 3 of his first 5.

Defensively, McLemore brought intensity throughout the game, even early on when the rest of the team was going through the motions. He has solid length and a strong frame used to handle contact. He gambled for steals on multiple occasions and only came away with one, so he still needs to become more disciplined. McLemore also rebounded the ball very well.

Slow Start for Covington, but No Need to Panic

One of the most under the radar matchups yesterday was Robert Covington against Rodney Williams. Covington has been a favorite of mine and I was disappointed to check the box score this morning and see that he only scored 10 points on 4-11 shooting before fouling out in 22 minutes. Was one of my sleeper prospects exposed as a guy just beating up on weak competition thanks to mismatches?

I got through the first half of the game and felt much better about the outcome. Rodney Williams matched up on Covington the entire half and played great defense, but an even bigger factor was Tennessee State's guard play. They struggled to get the ball into the halfcourt against the Golden Gopher's press and through up ill-advised shots at any chance they got. They seemingly never got Tennessee State set in their offense.

Covington showed little frustration throughout the process of being blown out though, showing solid leadership skills. He came up with a nice steal in the first half and fed a teammate for a lay-up on the break, only to have him go up weak and end up being blocked. Covington was able to score a few times - stepping out for a 3 on a pick and pop, and showing off a nice drop step spin move from about 10 feet from the rim. He actually finished the first half with 7 points on 3-5 shooting before going 1-6 in the second half once the game was already decided.

In a game like this, Covington was unable to take pressure off the guards and bring the ball up himself because he isn't that kind of player. His ball handling skills are good enough for him to drive in a straight line or set up a mid-range jumpshot, but he gets in trouble when he tries to create plays in isolation situations. He didn't have any room for error against Rodney Williams, who played tight defense on him all half.

Tennessee State is 0-3 on the year and the guards look to be at fault. Covington's stat line will suffer because of this, but once the guards find equal competition in conference play, Covington should start to pick up play. This isn't because he can't play against top level competition, moreso that the rest of his team isn't up for that challenge.

As for Minnesota, they look like a top 25 team. Their defense should be one of the top in the country. Rodney Williams, Andre and Austin Hollins, and Trevor Mbawke make up a great core of players who all defend. Williams has been great since moving to power forward and could be a poster child for the NCAA on reasons to stay in school for all 4 years. He has learned so much in that time, going from a low IQ player, to a fluid player who knows where to be on defense and how to move without the ball.

Austin Hollins has always impressed me and its about time I zero in on him as a legit prospect. Andre isn't a bad point guard either. Mbakwe only played 10 minutes off the bench and picked up 4 fouls, but expect him to return close to form this year. 

Top 65 After One Week Of College Hoops

*Note: This list is very much incomplete as of now, there are player I left out because I haven't seen enough and there is plenty of room for movement all around.

1. Nerlens Noel
2. Cody Zeller
3. Shabazz Muhammad
4. Rudy Gobert
5. James Michael McAdoo
6. Marcus Smart
7. Ben McLemore
8. Steven Adams
9. Alex Len
10. Isaiah Austin
11. Tony Mitchell
12. Rasheed Sulaimon
13. Otto Porter
14. Myck Kabongo
15. Alex Poythress
16. Adonis Thomas
17. Trey Burke
18. Mike Moser
19. Andre Roberson
20. Ray McCallum
21. Archie Goodwin
22. Anthony Bennett
23. Dario Saric
24. CJ McCollom
25. Phil Pressey
26. CJ Leslie
27. Reggie Bullock
28. Glen Robinson III
29. Willey Cauley-Stein
30. Kyle Anderson
31. Mason Plumlee
32. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
33. Marcus Paige
34. Rodney Purvis
35. Victor Oladipo
36. Doug McDermott
37. Lorenzo Brown
38. Ricardo Ledo
39. Le'Bryan Nash
40. Deshaun Thomas
41. Jarnell Stokes
42. Robert Covington
43. CJ Fair
44. Michael Carter-Williams
45. Nate Wolters
46. Jamaal Franklin
47. Patric Young
48. BJ Young
49. PJ Hairston
50. Rodney Williams
51. Elijah Johnson
52. Isaiah Cannon
53. Alex Oriakhi
54. Brendan Dawson
55. Jeff Withey
56. Trevor Mbakwe
57. Gorgui Dieng
58. DeAndre Daniels
59. CJ Wilcox
60. Michael Snaer
61. Elias Harris
62. Kenny Boynton
63.Tim Hardaway Jr
64. Keith Appling
65. Aaron Craft

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Roberson Struggles on the Perimeter

Just went back and watched today's Dayton vs Colorado game to get a look at Andre Roberson. I am a big fan of what Roberson can bring to a team at the next level, but his experimenting at small forward isn't showing off his game very well. He played almost exclusively on the wing in today's game and only finished with 6 points on 2-7 shooting. He also turned it over 6 times.

Roberson can try to make things to hard on himself on the perimeter and shy away from his strengths. If he wants to prove himself as a perimeter player thats fine (although I previously have written that I think he can play PF successfully in the NBA), but he needs to simplify what he is doing. Roberson mainly likes to attack when he has the ball with a defender closing in and almost always gives a pump fake before taking off on the dribble. He will get too fancy sometimes, trying to throw in one too many moves - say a hesitation move as he did today- and turn the ball over. This is really unnecessary as Roberson possesses a great first step and can get by just about anybody trying to close out on him.

Roberson isn't a great dribbler but can drive in a straight line with either hand and also has nice body control. He glides to the hoop in an effortless way and is a great finisher around the rim, able to handle contact with his wiry, strong frame. The problem is Roberson doesn't just stick to a basic drive. He hits the lane at 100 mph and can't control himself. He needs to gather himself by utilizing a jump stop move and allow himself either to make a pass from the position or finish at the rim.

Sometimes, Roberson can hit the lane at full speed and make a great pass. When he does, it looks great. Roberson is a pretty good passer on the move and regularly looks for his teammates. The jumpstop could show off this strength even more. Jay Williams said he needs to learn how to gather himself, take his time, and just make a solid move to the hoop and he is absolutely right. Roberson is thinking way too much before each move trying to string together the perfect compliment of moves to get the hoop. He doesn't need to do that.

It still is crazy too me though that a athlete of Roberson's caliber doesn't post up very often. He is dead set it seems on playing the small forward position. He would easily be a much better college player if he did this and Tad Boyle is too good of a college coach not to recognize this.

On top of his lack of feel for the perimeter, his shot also still remains very flat and somewhat of a push shot. He was 2-7 at the line today.

The bottom line is Roberson's biggest strengths are finishing at the rim, protecting the rim, and rebounding the ball. The best position to utilize these skills are at the power forward position. He has enough length and athleticism to play the position and should spent more time in the weight room instead of dangling around outside the arc. He doesn't need to prove to scouts he can handle the basketball better in order to get drafted. He needs to show that he can play one position and dominate at it. That position should be power forward.

NC State too much for the Nittany Lions

It was our first look at the Wolfpack's loaded team this year, a team suddenly in the national spotlight as the favorite to win the ACC. The Wolfpack have a roster loaded with talent including Rodney Purvis, Lorenzo Brown, CJ Leslie, TJ Warren, Tyler Lewis, Scott Wood, and Richard Howell. Ok, thats pretty much their whole roster, but thats what is so impressive - they have big names at every position.

The Wolfpack are certainly the most talented team in the ACC, but how is their leadership? How about their consistency? Their experience level? Their maturity? The ability to take care of the ball? Their ability to close out games? Who can honestly say they trust them to beat Duke in a do or die game?

Last year, they had Duke up against the ropes with a 16 point halftime lead. The wheels came off in the late stages though, and the Blue Devils won by 5. This NC State team is a year older at the core - CJ Leslie and Lorenzo Brown - but are they wiser? 

In the first test against, Penn State, Lorenzo Brown and CJ Leslie both showed plenty of talent but an unhealthy obsession with flash. Leslie is not the same careless player he was up until last year, but he still makes dumb mistakes and tries to do too much. And he settles too much for jumpers and continues to fail to box out consistently on defense.

For Brown, he makes hard plays look easy a lot of the times. Both guys are able to make some spectacular looking plays. Both also fail to make easy plays consistently. We saw it again tonight with Brown. Too many no-look passes and him trying to thread the needle in between multiple defenders. Too many times he tried to make a play out of nowhere instead of looking to set up sharpshooter Scott Wood with an easy jumpshot. The Wolfpack have one of the nation's deadliest shooters yet fail to utilize him consistently.

Brown got a chance to play off the ball some too, where he can be effective. Tyler Lewis though, looks like he will need some time before he adjusts to the college game. When the game is on the line, the ball will be in Lorenzo Brown's hand to make good decisions. NC State will be able to run plenty of teams off the court, but ultimately they will have to face the likes of Duke and beat them in close games while executing their halfcourt offense and managing the clock.

Gottfried was able to get Leslie to change his attitude when he took over the team, but he still has plenty of work to do with this team. I ranked Lorenzo Brown high on my PG rankings with the assumption that he will tone down his game in the NBA. It may be too big of an assumption to make at this point. He has first round talent, but does he have the mental capacity to run a pro team?

And does Leslie have it in him mentally to survive on his own in the NBA? He's a guy at this point who needs to find the right situation in the NBA. In a lot of places, he will fail.

On a more positive note, Rodney Purvis hit some jumpers and was able to create off the dribble. He can drive and kick as well as take it to the rim. The future of the shooting guard position is looking up with guys like Sulaimon, Goodwin, Purvis, Shabazz, and Smart. 

Other notes:

- Eric Bossi said TJ Warren has a bit of Antoine Walker in him. Interesting to say the least. Warren lit of the hoop with 22 points. 

- For Penn State, Tim Frazier is a solid player. He is a better pro prospect than Talor Battle, his incumbent was. Frazier operates out of the pick and roll most of the time and has a nice crossover. He can get into the mid-range area where he has a quick floater he can get off. He also knows how to change speeds and is a crafty finisher at the rim. Frazier had too much of a load to handle tonight though, and shot 6-20 from the field.

- For me, Richard Howell is nothing special. Some view him as an early second rounder, but I'd much rather have a guy like Jarnell Stokes. Howell has a solid mid-range jumper and rebounds well, but he's a guy who doesn't do anything well enough to find a spot in the league. He has carved out a nice role on NC State capitalizing on Leslie's arrant shots. 

Thoughts on Jarnell Stokes vs UNC-Asheville

Tackling the second game of this long day of basketball, the Vols played UNC-Asheville and held a steady lead most of the game en route to winning 75-68. Without Jerrone Maymon, the Vols went with a balanced attack with 5 players scoring between 12 and 14 points. The most impressive of those players is the 18 year SOPHOMORE Jarnell Stokes.

Stokes stands at 6'9'' in shoes, but has a huge 270 pound frame and a 7'1'' wingspan to make up for his height. He is your typical undersized power forward prospect in a lot of ways, but at only 18 years old, has plenty of time to improve his game. He already has a lot of natural tools to work with, starting with his big and strong hands that allow him to be an outstanding rebounder. Once Stokes gets his hands on a ball, it is his. His hands help him in the same way on the offensive end.

Stokes also understands his limitations and strengths and chooses to operate primarily from the post. He works hard to get excellent position and shows good footwork after getting the ball. He plays a physical brand of basketball.He isn't fancy in the paint, but understands how to use his pivot and displays good body control and solid enough creativity to finish in traffic.

He took 15 shots today, making 8. Like most undersized power forward prospects, Stokes shoots very well from the field and pulls down a monster amount of rebounds. I actually thought Tennessee should have featured Stokes more today as everytime they did feed it to him, he was able to get a high percentage shot.

At only 18, Stokes has plenty of time to work on things to separate himself from other undersized power fowards. We can start at the free throw line where he only shot 57% last season. Building off that, Stokes needs to show he is comfortable facing the rim by stepping out and hitting some jumpers. In the NBA, he will need to do that with regularity.

He also needs to make himself a better target coming off pick and rolls. Tennessee isn't the biggest pick and roll team there is, but he should get an occasion bucket rolling to the rim.

Defensively, Stokes isn't a rim protector and never will be. He moves his feet well though, and may be able to cover some small forwards if he loses some weight.

Right now Stokes would likely find himself in the early second round area if he declared after this season. For a guy like him, he needs to make sure every part of his game is fine tuned before taking his talents to the next level. For him, that means his free throwing shooting and mid-range jumper. The amount of tough effort he displays on the court and the fact that he was an honor student in high school makes me think he will work hard to make sure he improves. At only 18, he has plenty of time.

First Impression of Marcus Smart

If immediate impressions are everlasting then I will forever remember Marcus Smart's backcourt violation to start the game. Smart received the tip and proceeded to cross the halfcourt line, only in the wrong direction. Luckily, that isn't the only thing I observed about Smart in my first look at him in college.

You could say he started off on the wrong foot, but ankle would be more appropriate as coach Travis Ford said he was only at 50% due to his ankle injury. This ankle has been bothering him and resulted in Smart adding some extra weight to his frame that he needs to lose. Nothing bad though, underneath the little fat he put on is a body of a man - 6'4'' and over 220 pounds of man to be exact.

Smart has a mature body and he also has a mature game. The coaches rave about him and so do the coaches from the U-18 National team (Billy Donavan) that he played for over the summer. He has taken over the leadership role already and took ownership of the point guard position even though he was recruited as a two guard.

Smart's leadership and under control patient style make his transition to the point guard position rather seamless. He set up his teammates with plenty of good passes, pushed the ball up court via the pass when applicable, and was always willing to give the ball up. He makes attacking the hoop look easy by staying under control and never really going full speed. He may have been extra methodical today though due to his ankle, but Smart's ability to be effective at slower speeds makes him wise beyond his years. He changed speeds with ease and showed of good footwork going to the rim and appears to have the Eurostep down pact. In the second half Smart got more comfortable at point guard and began to make more plays. By overtime, he had created three straight easy jumpers for his close friend Phil Forte.

I would guess that his ankle really was bothering him these past two games. He was unable to convert on multiple lay-ups, lost his footing multiple times, and was limited defensively in his ability to change direction. Besides things that appeared to be effected by his angle, I loved everything about his game.

Defensively, Smart gave great effort and was willing to get physical. His ankle came into play here as well, as he was able to be taken off the dribble multiple times. This isn't a big deal and I believe with his frame and effort that he can be a very good defender. He also has nice instincts and good hands, getting 4 steals in today's game. The one thing he needs to do a better job of is dealing with screens. Smart got tied up in many of them and although his willingness to run into screens at full speed is admirable, he could make the game easier for himself as he learns more about college level defense. Smart is also an excellent rebounding guard and very vocal.

Overall, Smart is definitely a first round prospect and has the ability to play both guard positions in the future. His game should really take off once his ankle heals and if it does, the lottery is not out of the question for him. He has some James Harden in his game.

* LeBryan Nash operated exclusively inside today and was a force doing so. Last year he strayed to the outside too often. He is finding out just how unstoppable he can be when he uses his strong frame and athleticism around the hoop. Nash was able to get good position inside all day and finish through contact. He has a solid first step, but more than anything he knows how to use angles and his body to get a defender on his size. Nash's game from 15 feet in is very complete, showing off a fadeaway jumper, a little pull-up, and the ability put it on the floor for two dribbles and finish. He looks much more pedestrian however from outside the arc, which is where he will probably be asked to play at the next level.

Akron's Zeke Marshall also played, although he quickly picked up two fouls in two minutes in the first half. He was unable to get any kind of good position against OSU's Phillip Jurick and didn't get his first field goal until overtime when Jurick was on the bench.