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Monday, May 27, 2013

Scouting Report: Richard Howell

Richard Howell led a solid North Carolina State recruiting class in 2009, a class that also brought in sharpshooter Scott Wood. Howell and Wood helped lay the foundation for a North Carolina State team that enjoyed a rise into the top half of the ACC during his 4 year tenure. After Howell and Wood came in, the Wolfpack brought in an even talented class with more star potential, with the likes of Lorenzo Brown and CJ Leslie joining the team in 2010. The addition of a couple of potential stars allowed Richard Howell to settle into a role as the garbage man, a role that he has crafted into an artform over the years.

"Do what you do the best that you can do it". Thats what Howell has done and it has enabled him to have a good shot at getting drafted this year. Often times Howell was one of the least talented players on the court for the Wolfpack, but found a way to be the most valuable. On a team with plenty of offensive talent, Howell ended up being their second leading scorer this year despite not having any plays ran for him. He was also their best rebounder (all four years), highly efficient, and was actually their leading scorer at one point in the season. Because of how physical and tough he plays, Howell got a little banged up as the season went on and a knee injury slowed him down in the final month of play.

Even though North Carolina State had a disappointing season - they entered the year ranked 6th in preseason polls but ended up losing in the Round of 64 - Howell was the one guy on the team who never disappointed and raised his draft stock through his play this season. He was the one guy whose energy was never questioned as well as the most consistent decision maker.

Playing for a talented North Carolina State team might have been the best thing for him to prepare him for the next level. The role he played at North Carolina State will be very similar to what he will do in the NBA. That is rebound, finish inside, and bring energy and toughness. Howell has plenty of experience playing without the ball in his hands and knows how to impact that game without getting touches. He worked for the ball by attacking the offensive glass. The things he was asked to do - he did them just about as well as anyone could. He excelled in a role and that is very appealing to NBA coaches. All coaches need a lunch pail type guy.

Offensively as a I mentioned, he does his best work on the offensive glass. You have got to make sure you put a body on him because he will be running to the rim every time a shot goes up. He's physical and a solid athlete for his size. He's quicker off his feet than he looks and also moves pretty well. He has good body control in the air and excellent touch and hands on putbacks at the rim.

Often times, Richard Howell will snatch an offensive rebound powerfully in the air and put the ball on the floor with one power dribble to gather himself. He's not necessarily a guy who will just rebound the ball and rise above everyone and dunk on them. He doesn't have that kind of vertical, size, or length. He's quick off the ground, but isnt a high/above the rim leaper.

Constantly bringing the ball down in the NBA may not be as easy as it was in college. But he does do a good job of using his body to create space - more space than even his size would suggest - and seeking out contact. He finishes well for a below the rim player, but will struggle against NBA athletes at the rim.

Howell even has trouble finishing over college players at times, but when he does miss, there is nobody better at chasing down his own shot. He is relentless and knows where to be to get the ball. He attacks the ball and is constantly moving which other college players really struggle with. If Howell doesnt make his first attempt, there is a good shot he will get the ball back and have another opportunity. Thats the level of his motor. It also shows that he is fairly quick off of his feet and can rebound outside of his territory.

From a skilled perspective, Howell isn't necessarily that bad. No, you won't see Howell getting many - if any - touches with his back to the basket. He has good footwork and a nice spin move, but he is better facing up. With his back to the basket, he hasn't shown a hook shot or turnaround jumper to consistently score the ball.

But as a face up player, Howell is pretty good from the high post. He's a turn and face guy when he gets it with his back to the basket. Part of the reason for his decent skill level with the ball may date back to his high school days when he was viewed as a tweener forward. There was talk that he was perhaps too small to play inside. He developed decent handles and has a pretty good first step to the rim.

His handles have improved throughout his college career and has helped him improve his field goal percentage in the process. He is able to now be more aggressive getting to the rim when he gets the ball in the high post. Howell doesn't like to settle for jumpshots anymore and is constantly looking for the highest percentage shot. He is right hand dominant, but is able to spin off the dribble to get defenders off his back. Its very hard to stay in front of a good spin move. He has a strong power dribble and likes to steady himself with a big jumpstop once he gets near the rim. His off the dribble game won't be featured in the NBA, but he does have some skills in this area.

He has enough skills where he should be able to play in the high post area. In addition to his handles, he also has good vision as a passer and a solid jumpshot. If he is able to his from 15 feet consistently - which is possible - he could have a career as a Udonis Haslem type.

Howell also has a good feel of sneaking around in open space to get easy buckets. He also rim runs in transition and gets down the court well for a big, bulky guy. North Carolina State wasn't pick and roll heavy, but Howell looked like a solid option as a pick and pop threat. He also did a good job coming off screens and rolling towards the basket. The jumpstop he has is really valuable to help him gather himself - something that Howell has a habit of doing. Between the jumpstop or one dribble, it seems Howell feels the need to get his legs underneath him before going up for a shot at the rim.

Howell is a high IQ player on the offensive end and most importantly, unselfish and willing to do the dirty work. His IQ carries over on the defensive end too. He is a saavy defender who is able to beat drivers to their spots on the court. He's a guy without a ton of lateral quickness, but is smart enough to get in good position to draw a lot of charges. He is certainly not afraid to give up his body. Howell may struggle against quicker PFs, but did average a steal per game in college. He will be able to hold his own in post defense, although his 8'9.9'' standing reach will make it easy to shoot over him. Howell also isn't a shot blocking threat.

Howell will make his worth on defense as a team defender. He does a very good job covering the pick and roll and recovering to his man. He also can get out and contest the guard if he decides to shoot. Drawing charges and controlling the defensive boards will help him carve out a role as a junkyard dog type guy. Something he is more than OK with doing.

He is the 6th best rebounder in my top 100, trailing only Mike Muscala, Trevor Mbakwe, Jack Cooley, Colton Iverson, and Andre Roberson. Considering Muscala and Iverson are both small school guys, Mbakwe is already 24, and Roberson is more of a combo forward - Howell's numbers look even better.

Overall, Howell isn't a guy who is very flashy or exciting. He doesn't have the same allure to teammates CJ Leslie or Lorenzo Brown who are also in the draft. All of them look like second rounders right now, but Leslie and Brown both could work their way into the first round. For Howell, he just isn't sexy as a first round pick. However, there is reason to believe that Howell will end up being the best North Carolina State player out of this draft. He was arguably their most valuable player this year and showed more improvement year to year than either of the other two. So while everyone may get caught up in the potential of Leslie and Brown, it seems as if Howell is doing a better job of improving himself as a player. Howell is the only one who has already shown that he can play a role in the NBA and excels as a rebounder - the most easily translatable stat from college to the pros. He will be a guy any NBA coach will be happy to have on their team and should most definitely get drafted in the second round.

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