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Friday, March 1, 2013

Scouting Report: Jackie Carmichael

Jackie Carmichael entered his senior season with very high expectations as his 21 win Illinois State squad returned mostly the same roster. He spent the summer impressing coaches and scouts alike at the LeBron James Camp with his toughness - leading to plenty of eyes watching him this year.

Illinois State looked poised to give Creighton all the could handle in the MVC, especially after a tough fought loss to Louisville and big early season wins on the road against Drexel and Dayton. Unfortunately for Carmichael and the Redbirds, they began their conference schedule with a 6 game losing streak - essentially eliminating all hopes of securing an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament. As Carmichael's career winds down, it is a perfect time to look back and what he accomplished and assess how his game will translate to the next level.

While playing under first year head coach Dan Muller, Carmichael had his best statistical season yet on a team that looked to push the pace more than past Redbird squads. Carmichael had shown steady improvement year to year and made an especially big jump following his sophomore year, where he improved his numbers across the board as well as raised his field goal percentage from 45% to a 53%.

The reason for Carmichael's improvement last year was his newfound aggressiveness, something coaches had been eager to see out of him all along. Carmichael relegated himself to a jumpshooter in his sophomore year, rendering his solid 6-8 240lb frame almost useless. According to hoop-math.com, Carmichael took only 18% of his shots at the rim during the 2010-2011 season before bringing it up to 44% last year. Attacking the rim was a huge part in his raise in efficiency and he got to the line 8.4 times per 40 minutes.

This season, Carmichael picked up where he left off in his junior year, continuing to be aggressive, and imposing himself as one of the 4 senior leaders of the Redbird team. He raised his point per game up nearly 4 points, but when the pace is adjusted for Dan Muller's new tempo, its roughly closer to a 2 point per game improvement.

Muller's tempo allowed Carmichael to show his hustle more and capitalize on more easy buckets around the rim. Carmichael isn't the most athletically gifted, but runs the court well and with purpose each and every time. He also does a good job getting open and staying ready for a pass at all times. The new offense allowed this part of his game to show a bit more.

First and foremost though, Carmichael is a halfcourt scorer who fared very well in the halfcourt sets ran. After moving outside of his comfort zone in his sophomore year as a jumpshooter, Carmichael took on a more physical role and showed off his post game.

Carmichael does a good job establishing position in the post, moving his feet to keep defenders on his back, and keeping his hands up to call for the ball. He has very soft hands and is able to receive even the toughest passes cleanly. Carmichael's go-to moves in the post are a quick turnaround jumper from either shoulder as well as a little right handed hook shot. In terms of counter moves, Carmichael is still raw in that area although he does have the potential to continue to develop. After all, Carmichael hasn't been focused on playing with his back to the basket until the last two years and in many cases, he hasn't needed a counter move.

Carmichael's feel in the post is still developing as well and he struggles with the double teams that undersized MVC teams throw at him. With a turnover rate at less than a 1:2 ratio, it is easy to say Carmichael has to improve passing out of the post. More accurately, he needs to learn not to panic when double teams come. He can rush into mistakes and also has a problem having the ball swiped from him due to him holding the ball away from his body. At times, he has to learn to accept the double team and get rid of the ball. His turnovers are also high because of his poor ball-handling skills. Whenever Carmichael puts the ball on the floor for more than one dribble, its an adventure where things rarely turn out well.

While double teams have been able to slow Carmichael down, teams that have tried to stop him by fronting him in the post have paid dearly. He has no problem establishing position from that angle and his teammates also deserve credit for getting him the ball for easy lay-ups in these situations. Its very hard to front a guy like Carmichael who is constantly moving and battling for good position.

Carmichael is best used in the pick and roll game, something that both of his coaches at Illinois State took full advantage of. As mentioned, Carmichael is very good in a set offense and has a strong understanding of timing and spacing. He will have no problem adjusting to the playbooks of the NBA and will thrive in the league where pick and roll action is king.

Carmichael understands how valuable the pick and roll can be to free him up on offense - whether it be used to help him establish post position, open jumpers, or shots at the rim. He is constantly moving around on offense screening defenders for his teammates and then floating into open areas looking for the ball. His best attributes in these situations including his feel/awareness/timing/patience, his hands, footwork, and versatile offensive game. He does a fantastic job of always making himself an available target and getting open.

His feel/awareness/timing/patience can be lumped into one category, but it is a huge part of what he is as a player. Carmichael plays like an NBA veteran already in terms of his pace of the game. He glides to spots after setting ball screens, finding weak spots in the defense for jumpers or searching for an undersized defender to put a body on and establish post position. The revelation of the latter, has enabled him to get much deeper post position than in previous season and take advantage of his strong finishing ability inside of ten feet.

His hands are another big asset that allow him to catch balls on the move when rolling towards the basket. He has large hands and a soft touch. He can release the ball rather quick near the rim and also gets of the floor quick given his size. Carmichael loves to go up strong with both hands on the ball, although he is primarly a right-handed dominant finisher. Despite his shortcomings with his left hand, Carmichael still ranks as a good finisher thanks to his strength, touch, and solid explosiveness.

Carmichael's versatility is big and includes his post up game, pick and roll game, and his ability to knock down jumpers. I mentioned his turnaround already. His turnaround right now is best used inside of 10-15 feet. He shoots it better over his left shoulder, but has shown more and more the ability to shoot it in the other direction. He isn't the type of turnaround jumpshooter who takes multiple dribbles, battles for position, and can fake one way or another. Instead, his game is pretty basic that just involves making a quick one dribble move off either shoulder - anything more is asking too much from him.

Carmichael has always had the makings of a solid jumper, but has fallen in love with it too much at times. Obviously during his sophomore year, he shot it way too much. Even now, Carmichael will take contested jumpers just inside the 3-pt line that appear to be slightly out of his range. He is a much more consistent knock down shooter inside of 15-18 feet. Further consistency and expansion of his range will go a long way in his dreams of being a NBA player.

His ability to settle for shots has been frustrating to watch at times, as he has such an imposing physical frame in the MVC. Even his turnaround jumpers in the post leave you instead wanting to see him take it into his man's body strong for a tough finish inside. Nevertheless, his offensive skills are notable.

As I said, Carmichael isn't a good ball handler, but is able to face up for a quick "gather himself" dribble while on his way to the rim for an explosive finish. He uses a convincing pump fake to get his man off balance. That dribble is key for Carmichael who is a much better jumper when he has both feet underneath him than coming off one foot. He isn't the high-flying forward that comes out from the perimeter for tip slams that you see a lot in today's NBA.

From a rebounding standpoint though, that hardly hurts him. Carmichael is a great rebounder who does a good job using his frame to carve out an large area in which every ball within reach seems to be his. His strength, ability to get off the floor, and toughness are all on display here. Carmichael relishes opportunities to do the dirty work and work harder than his opponents. In an interview with Sports Illustrated prior to this season, he was quote saying, "I am the guy who is going to bring his hard hat and lunch pail every single day and just work hard. I feel like thats what gets basketball players to that next level and where they want to be in life. I live by the quote that hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard".

Obviously, Jackie Carmichael has a great head on his shoulders and will be a joy in any lockerroom. His work ethic and willingness to do the dirty work will be welcomed by all coaches and he should be able to pack on more muscle on his broad frame.

Defensively, Carmichael will never be a great player, but he can be a solid NBA defender right off the bat. He understands how to move his feet, plays solid pick and roll defense, works hard to deny post position, and has posted an interesting combination of rebounds and steals this year.

A fair amount of those steals have came from either denying post entry passes or aggressive attacking the ball handler in pick and rolls - forcing them to make a rash decision. Carmichael doesn't take defense off, instead constantly battling to deny post position and never falling asleep when he is asked to defend in the pick and roll. His low center of gravity is useful in the post and his upper body should only get stronger. Carmichael is also a team first defender who generally knows when to offer help and when to stay inside to protect the paint.

His aggressive hedges on screens are aided by his solid footwork, although sometimes he is a little slow to get back to his original man. Carmichael has a solid 7 foot wingspan, but doesn't project as a impact shot deterer  and only uses his right hand to contest shots. What he does offer is the ability to slide over in front of defenders and draw charges and Carmichael has already proven himself to be a believable actor in the eyes of refs.

A large amount of Carmichael's fouls on defense come from being to aggressive in battles down low, especially when trying to go over the back for tough rebounds.

Overall, Carmichael has an all-around solid game and is ready to contribute sooner rather than later to the NBA. As a 23 year old, his stock is hurt a bit by his lack of perceived upside, although he does present some intrigue with coming out of a mid-major conference and his offensive ability. Also, the disappointing years of power forwards like James McAdoo and Tony Mitchell have made this PF class rather barren in terms of first round talent that can contribute right away. With those two and Isaiah Austin and Anthony Bennett, you have 4 great talents but none of them appear to have the maturity to contribute to a team right away. Carmichael can. So can guys like Richard Howell and Trevor Mbakwe, but with Carmichael's offensive ability - he presents more of an upside - even if he does turn out to be just a rotational big who rebounds and defends like Howell and Mbakwe project to be.

Carmichael looks to be a solid bet for the late first round at this point, although he doesn't have much room to move much higher on boards. A down year for Illinois State has shifted a lot of potential hype away from him and its unlikely they get a berth in the NCAAs or NIT. Still, look for him to be one of the first seniors called on draft night.

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