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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Round of 64 Lottery Recap - They Are Who We Thought They Were

The Round of 64, or as I'd rather call it - round one - of the NCAA Tournament is officially over. For many NBA fans, this is the time that they turn to college basketball to start evaluating future pros. For guys like me and the NBA scouts out there, this is just a small piece of the puzzle. Nothing in the past 2 days has changed any prospects stock in much of any way. Instead, its just another chance to watch prospects and see the same things we've been seeing all year. And while there are some things the casual observers have seen that are true - say McLemore or Porter disappearing when their teams needed them, Anthony Bennett's aversion to defense, Shabazz just simply not looking that great, or Marcus Smart struggling to get by defenders - these are things that have been reoccurring themes all season long.

But at the same time, these things are things that I like to point out while watching games to the rest of the Twitter world who may be watching these prospect for the first time. Just key sticking points to continue to drive home, while at the same time hoping to be proven wrong. The tournament is just another - bigger - stage that allows prospect a chance to answer questions. A chance for some of the top guys to make everyone feel better about the 2013 lottery.

Its why I wanted to see Marcus Smart play against Oregon. It gave him another chance to show he could handle small, quick, pesky guard play. Instead, he struggled to play at his tempo and Oklahoma State ended up being upset. Smart had a good game statistically, but he did nothing to show he is a point guard. Smart was forced to give up the ball early in possessions and made most of his plays receiving the ball after curling around a ball screen. He worked well as part of the offense, but he wasn't able to handle the pressure and make plays at the top of the arc. Against a team like Oregon, they will try to force you to speed up and play at their tempo and they were able to speed Oklahoma State up because Smart wasn't able to be effective with the ball in his hands.

Its why I wanted to see Anthony Bennett advance to the next round to face Syracuse. I wanted to see if he would finally stop floating around the arc and decide that he would help his team if he was playing elsewhere. Against a team like Syracuse, that would require him to play near the foul line and make plays from there. However, it was another concern with Bennett that prevented them from even advancing past Cal - his defense. All year long Bennett has backed down against players who aren't afraid to try to push him around. He's also shown little understanding of help defense and has been slow getting in position when he does come from the weakside. His passiveness that Chad Ford mentioned? Thats been Anthony Bennett all season. He's always been reluctant to demand the ball in the post and take advantage of his physical tools. He's always drifted towards the outside.

Its why I wanted to see Shabazz Muhammad play without Jordan Adams in a game that many were doubting his team. It was just one more chance - one more hope - that Shabazz had something more in the tank than what he had shown to date. Something more than just being more physical and determined to score than others. I wanted to see a situation arise where he demanded the ball, sized up his open, and showed the ability to create a shot off the dribble. Even if it was a shot for himself. Yet it was more of the same for Shabazz. Those watching for the first time figured he was affected by the LA Times report - reality is, this is just what a lottery pick of the 2013 NBA Draft looks like.

Its why I wanted to see Otto Porter change the fate of Georgetown's previous tournament failures. But in the end, neither Otto Porter's style or Georgetown's offense allowed him to truly ever dominate a game scoring. And thats perfectly alright and not a surprise at all. Greg Monroe lost in the first round as well as a sophomore and still ended up going 7th overall in the draft. This game didn't change anything for Otto - he's still a top ten pick. He's not a superstar, but he'll be a helluva player for a good NBA team.

Its why I wanted to see Ben McLemore shine. Answer that question of whether or not he can be a go to NBA player. But he didn't take over because - believe it or not, he didn't suddenly develop an array of ball handling moves since the Big 12 Championship game. He's got a long way to go, but he's come a long way at the same time. It doesn't mean he can't be a superstar. It just means this kid is a freshman who is still adjusting to his new found stardom.

Its also why I wanted to see guys like Mike Muscala and Nate Wolters get their chance to steal the show. These guys had the most to gain than anyone, but in the end, its still just one game from them as well.

Mike Muscala struggled against a very good defender in Andrew Smith, something I had said would happen in previous posts. Scouts were hoping that he would advance past Butler and continue on a magical run against bigger schools where he would show that he could post the same numbers against them that he's been posting in the Patriot League all year. Instead, he's out after the first round. But still, there are 4 years worth of tape on this guy and I can tell you that he can play. He didn't earn a first round selection in March, but he certainly didn't lose much based off one performance.

Nate Wolters actually did an admirably job facing Trey Burke, especially considering the level of point guards he is used to guard. Wolters showed that he wasn't shaken by the competition and he fought to the very end. He didn't get many shots to fall and had some trouble with bigger defenders like Tim Hardaway Jr and Glenn Robinson III, but who wouldn't? What Wolters did remind scouts is that his IQ will always be great no matter what the competition is like and he used that IQ to overcome what he lacked in athleticism. He did a fine job helping contain Trey Burke by keeping him in front of him and forcing Burke to drive where Wolters knew he had help defenders. Wolters also was still able to set up shots for teammates with nice passes and even better execution. Did Wolters turn into a national hero by beating Michigan? No. But is he still very much on the radar of scouts? Of course.

I'll have another article tackling some other lesser talked about prospect after the first weekend of games is complete. I'll look at guys like DJ Stephens, Arsalan Kazemi, Allen Crabbe, Colton Iverson, Phil Pressey, Tony Snell, and plenty more.

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