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Monday, February 11, 2013

Which Shooting Guard Will Rise to the Top of The Pack?

There are quite a few upperclassmen shooting guards in this years draft class, mostly juniors, who could look to declare for the draft. The deciding factor may be whether they get a first round guarantee or not and as of now - it seems they all have some hope to cling onto. There is room for at least another shooting guard prospect to rise up the board and into the mid to late first round area. Right now, Jamaal Franklin appears to be the favorite but these 5 other players could all very likely declare for the draft and challenge for supremacy.

(Numbers in parenthesis are where each player is ranked on DraftExpress.com and Chad Ford's Big Board)

JR Tim Hardaway Jr (DX: 62, CF: 59)

What He Does Best?

Among the group, Hardaway Jr is the best at putting the ball on the floor and making plays in the paint. He is best with the ball in his hands and the freedom to create. Hardaway Jr is very creative getting his shots off inside the arc, can hang in the air, and has nice touch at the rim. His crossover is not as good as his dad's, but is another strength of his game, and he is able to get shots off after creating space with the move. Playing for one of the best teams in the country won't hurt his stock.

What He Needs to Improve?

Hardaway Jr is one of the more ball dominant players of this group and makes his biggest impact with the ball in his hands. He goes one on one too often, dribbles the ball way too much, and has been an inconsistent spot up shooter. And for all his dribbling, an average of only 4 free throws per 40 minutes and the lowest assist percentage in this group, doesn't look good. Up until this year, he looked like a streaky spot up shooter at best, but he is shooting over 40% from 3 this year. His 73% FT shooting suggest that this may be a fluke and there is little doubt that he is one of the worst spot up shooters in this group. Hardaway Jr also needs to make a bigger impact off the ball and on the defensive end.

JR Allen Crabbe (DX:48, CF:38)

What He Does Best?

Crabbe does an excellent job moving without the ball, seemingly gliding to his spots and working hard throughout the entire game. He has a knack for getting open even though Cal's offense revolves around him and Justin Cobbs as much as any offense revolves around two players. Crabbe does most of his work before he gets the ball in his hands and doesn't just move around screens to set up outside shots - he is equally as good finding seams in the painted area for easy floaters. Because of this, Crabbe has improved his 2-pt% this year and is one of the most efficient scorers of this group despite a "down year" shooting the ball. In the past two years, he has shot just at 40% from deep and over 80% at the line. He's proven himself as a consistent and pure shooter throughout his 3 years in Berkeley.

What He Needs To Improve?

As mentioned, Crabbe does much of his work before he gets the ball so he doesn't flash the same kind of ability to create shots that a guy like Tim Hardaway Jr does. But that isn't necessarily a bad thing since he moves so well without the ball and the NBA needs more guys like that. Crabbe also isn't very explosive getting to the rim and struggles to get all the way to the cup - although he shoots 76% at the rim - better than any other wing in this study. Crabbe is a solid defender and rebounds well, but doesn't project as anything special on defense.

JR CJ Wilcox (DX: 49, CF: 41)

What He Does Best?

Wilcox has been a shooter from the moment he stepped on campus and is the only guy in this group who has shot over 40% from 3 in each of his years in college. Wilcox started off as a spot up shooter - playing off the likes of Terrence Ross, Tony Wroten, and Isaiah Thomas - so he is very use to the role that will be asked of him in the NBA. He also has great length for a wing (with a 6-8 wingspan) and is the best shotblocker among these 6 prospects.  Through hardwork, Wilcox has transformed his game into more than just a shooter and is now able to function as the focal point of the Huskies offense - taking 29.5% of their shots while on the floor.

What He Needs to Improve?

Only Reggie Bullock gets to the line less among this group. While he has stepped up his overall offensive game, Wilcox still projects as just a jump shooter at the next level. He gets to the rim less than any other player looked at, although his length allows him to finish well in limited opportunities. And in terms of operating off the basketball, he is nowhere near the level that Allen Crabbe is at. Wilcox usually coasts around screens with zero urgency to get open and has been held to under 15 points in each of his last 5 games. Currently his team  has lost 6 of their last 7 and he has failed to step up and stop the skid. A large part of this may be attributed to a stress fracture he suffered in early January. but it doesn't look like Wilcox will have another chance this year to show what he can do when completely healthy.

JR Jamaal Franklin (DX: 23, CF: 19)

What He Does Best?

The simple answer is rebounding. Franklin is by far the best rebounder of the group and has grown his craft by acting as San Diego State's power forward much of the time on defense. Franklin as a football background and it is evident in his toughness, competitiveness, and instincts. He is an explosive leaper and is the best shotblocker listed besides CJ Wilcox. Franklin treats defense as very important and takes on the challenge of covering the oppositions best player. On the offense end, Franklin is aggressive and thrives in transition. He is a explosive finisher and a good playmaker for his teammates. He does the best job at drawing fouls out of this group - showing an array of old man moves to get his defender off balance. Franklin's work ethic and coachability has often been praised by the coaching staff.

What He Needs to Improve?

Franklin is the least efficient player in this overview and the most turnover prove. He is an outlier in terms of shooting - as he shoots just 26% from behind the arc this season. Franklin's offense is more predicated around heart, assertiveness, and athleticism than any particular skills. He has a good crossover to get by defenders, but his overall handle is sloppy and out of control in the paint. His shooting is incredibly streaky. Franklin is a good passer, but has a poor A/TO ratio because he tries to do too much on the offensive side of things. He also has some character red flags in the past and needs to continue to keep his aggression channeled towards basketball.

JR Reggie Bullock (DX: 50, CF: 43)

What He Does Best?

Bullock has improved immensely as a shooter to become the most efficient scorer and highest percentage shooter amongst the group. He is shooting over 43% from the arc and nearly 90% from the free throw line. Bullock is the ultimate role player and gets his team extra possessions through his work on the offensive glass and diving for loose balls. He is the best offensive rebounder of the group by a fair margin. Bullock also is very intense of the defense end and has the potential to be a very good defender in the NBA with the ability to cover both wing positions. His assist to turnover ratio is double of any other player compared here.

What He Needs to Improve?

Part of the reason why Bullock has such a good assist to turnover ratio is he doesn't attempt to make many plays off the bounce. His scoring efforts come off offensive rebounds, transition opportunities, and jumpers. That is what makes him an ultimate glue guy, but at the same time very much limits him. This year, North Carolina has needed a guy to handle to scoring load and Bullock has been unable to deliver anything different than in prior years. He is what he is as an offensive player. Bullock's possession % ranks him last among the 6 player field. His free throw rate also puts him at the bottom of the list.

SO Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (DX: 38, CF: 36)

What He Does Best?

At only 20 years old, Caldwell-Pope is easily the youngest player that we are going to look at. His team has struggled mightily during his stay, although they've been starting to play better as the young guys mature. Caldwell-Pope is actually one of the more experienced guys on the team and has had a lot of pressure as basically their only scoring option. He is a dead-eye shooter who is always ready to get his shot off and has athleticism to go along with it. Caldwell-Pope has a good first step and can pull up off a couple of dribbles going in either direction. He is very good with this type of mid-range jumper and is a good finisher at the rim. In fact, his 2-pt% is the highest amongst all 6 players we looked at. It is fairly safe to say that Kentavious is the most talented offensive player in this group. On the defensive end, Caldwell-Pope generally shows a lot of energy in defending and going after rebounds.

What He Needs to Improve?

For Caldwell-Pope, a lot of it is between the ears. He makes a lot of "freshman mistakes" still and puts up contested jumpers early in the shot clock. On his current team, you can live with that though. More concerning is his defense. Not his effort, but his understanding of positions and help defense. Caldwell-Pope is the guy who face guards you in middle school and annoys you to know end. He can shut you out of the game, but be completely oblivious to what is going on around him. Because of his style, he is prone to losing his man on cuts to the rim and he gets ran through a lot of screens. He has trouble understanding the relation between the ball and his man - something that comes naturally to most players - but for him you can tell it is something that he is constantly trying to figure out where he should be.

Offensively, he has a poor handle and struggles to make moves with a defender nearby. He relies purely on his quick first step. He isn't able to attack pick and roll - resulting in many teams blitzing him. He gets himself stuck in double teams and isn't a very good passer. He is able to get to the rim on straight line drives due to his explosiveness, but lacks any creativity to his game. He also needs to learn how to play off the ball to take advantage of his gifts.

SR Michael Snaer (DX: 53, CF: 100)

What He Does Best?

Snaer came out of high school as an All-American and has now spent four years learning defense from Leonard Hamilton. Needless to say, Snaer is a great defender who has the physical attributes along with the proper schooling to be ready to contribute ready away at the next level. He is a leader on the floor and understands the game at an advanced level. Along with the defensive expectations, Snaer has also had a lot of responsibility on the offense end of the table, especially with Ian Miller battling injuries all season long. Still, Snaer is shooting nearly 40% from 3 and over 80% from the line - something he has done each of the past two season. Snaer also racks up more assists than anyone not named Jamaal Franklin as he is often asked to be the primary playmaker as well as scorer for his team. Snaer has been able to show an all-around offensive game. He's shown the shooting, playmaking, ball handling, and leadership that make him arguably the most well rounded player we've looked at. On top of that, Snaer may be the most clutch performer in college basketball with 3 buzzer beaters this season alone to his credit.

What He Needs to Improve?

Snaer's team is in a down year with quite a few key players leaving and his numbers have dipped quite a bit as well. He trails only Jamaal Franklin when it comes to TS% while also turning it over as much as any other player besides Franklin. The difference between him and Franklin's FG% is Snaer actually can shoot from deep - where he is struggling, oddly enough, is from the mid-range area. According to hoop-math.com, he has connected on just 22% of all 2-pt jumpers. Another thing to look at though, is just 8% of the jumpers have been assisted which speaks to how much he is expected to have the ball in his hands and make plays for himself. His 2-pt % on jumper is the worst it has been in his career. Leonard Hamilton is an expert on defense, but his offense has always lagged behind and you can chalk up many of Snaer's inefficiencies to lack of offensive structure. His high turnovers also are a result on him having to do entirely too much. Snaer isn't a guy you'd generally associate as an inefficient player - he is very smooth, smart, and makes good decision with the ball - but he's been asked to do way too much this year and point guard is not his natural position.

Conclusion:

If you were to ask me who'd I'd pick first out of this group, it would be either Michael Snaer or Allen Crabbe. Right now, it seems that Jamaal Franklin is currently the favorite to be selected in that mid-first round area all these players are vying for, but I don't see much upside to his game. Snaer is a better defender, shooter, ball handler, and has a better background with no character issues. Franklin is limited by his decision making, shooting, and ball handling on offense and while his athletic highlights give the notion that he has a high upside, it is tough to overcome his shortcomings.

In looking for a shooter, Crabbe presents the most intriguing combination of saavy without the ball to go along with his ability to shoot. He isn't the defender than Reggie Bullock is, but has much more potential as a scorer.

Tim Hardaway Jr does have some upside and it is hard to count him out, but Im not sure how his style will translate to wins. His shooting still seems like somewhat of a fluke and his defense doesn't effect games. He is a guy who needs the ball in his hands and while he can put up points in the NBA, will he contribute to winning?

As for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and CJ Wilcox, Caldwell-Pope still has a long way to go in terms of learning the game. As of now, his natural feel for the game isn't very promising when looking at his future. Returning to Georgia for another season will be his best bet unless he gets a first round promise. CJ Wilcox on the otherhand, is what he is at this point and doesn't present much intrigue. He can make it in the NBA as a shooter, but there are plenty of guys out there like him that all need to find the right opportunity to succeed.

My Rankings:

1. Allen Crabbe
2. Michael Snaer
3. Reggie Bullock
4. Jamaal Franklin
5. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
6. CJ Wilcox

Out of the Mix:

Early in the season, it looked like Sean Kilpatrick had a horse in this race but he's fallen off as the season goes on. His power dribbling style doesn't translate well to the NBA and his shot hasn't been as automatic as it appeared before. He's a junior with athletic limitations.

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